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UNCW Designs New Degree Program To Advance Mid-career Adults

By Jenny Callison, posted Mar 18, 2024
The University of North Carolina Wilmington is launching a new bachelor’s degree program aimed squarely at adults who want to boost or pivot their careers. A public session earlier this month introduced the Workforce Learning and Development degree program, which developers say meets important needs in the Cape Fear region and across North Carolina.
 
“In today’s rapidly changing workforce environment, there is a growing need for professionals with the knowledge and skills to help organizations build a more skilled workforce,” the program’s webpage states. “Our program is designed for military personnel and mid-career individuals in fields such as engine repair, mechanics, plumbing and welding who would like to advance a career by joining the growing workforce development field. The program is also valuable for community college vocational tech and continuing ed instructors who would like to complete an undergraduate degree.”
 
Angela Housand, associate dean for academic affairs at UNCW’s Watson College of Education, whose purview is program support and student success, said the new degree program targets “people who are highly skilled but don’t have the degree to teach what they know.” Another target population is military personnel – either enlisted service members who need a bachelor’s degree to become officers or people leaving the military who want to teach the skills they’ve learned.
 
This program’s emphasis on nontraditional students aligns well with one of UNCW’s strategic priorities: ensuring that people in the region have access to higher education, Housand said.
 
“We want to increase access for students and expand academic programs in high-need areas – and there is a high need for developing the workforce, especially from within [organizations],” she said. “We’re partnering with the military, businesses in the region and community colleges to develop workforces into the next phase of their careers.”
 
Individuals who have spent years mastering a trade may also be ready to leave the heavy lifting to younger arms, legs and backs, Housand added, noting that many trades involve physically taxing work.
 
“At some point [these people] may want to develop the skills to be effective in training newer individuals,” she said.
 
The Watson College of Education was the logical home for the new degree program because it does far more than prepare students for pre-kindergarten through high school teaching, according to Housand. It offers coursework on leadership, policy and advocacy, serving industry and leadership needs throughout the state.
 
“We already do a lot of work with adult learners,” she said, “and we know how to work with them through night, online and flexible courses.”
 
Flexibility is built into the new program, which launches at the beginning of fall semester this year. For one thing, each course is seven weeks long, and students can enter at the beginning of any course, tailoring their academic schedule to fit their work and family commitments. New students are limited to one course to start. After that, they can enroll in more than one if that’s manageable, Housand said.
 
There is no fixed timetable for degree completion because each student is different, she added, saying some students will enter the program with credits they’ve earned from another institution or even from work experience or professional training. The military’s Joint Services Transcript, which documents to colleges and universities a service member’s and veteran’s professional military education, training and occupation experiences, will automatically add up to credits toward the new degree.
 
In developing the degree program, the Watson College of Education has drawn from the talents and experience of the program’s advisory council, whose members come from a wide variety of backgrounds, according to Housand. The college has also worked closely with community colleges and their vocational training personnel.
 
The Workforce Learning and Development program is accepting applications now for the fall.
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