Curt Bielski and Kari Teel have at least two things in common: Both, as baby boomers, enrolled in college pharmacy technician programs.
They are not alone as more and more individuals in their 50s and older are going back to school in order to start new careers, either out of necessity or because they are craving a professional change.
Rising Trend Among Baby Boomers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those 55 years and older are projected to make up 25.6% of the labor force by the year 2022. This is up from 14.3% in 2002 and 20.9% in 2012.
Training, such as pharmacy technician programs, offered by colleges are especially appealing to older adults as they require relatively low time investment and train students for specific careers.
“I felt going into this, being a baby boomer in this present economy, I was looking for something viable, short-term, to be able to get back into the job market and have a gainfully employed job,” said Bielski, in an AACCPlus50Initiative video, about his motivation for enrolling in Ivy Tech Community College’s pharmacy technician program. He successfully completed the program and is glad he did so, noting it was challenging but that his fellow students were very supportive.
Bielski adds that older adults returning to school are already faced with numerous life responsibilities, but college is still worthwhile. “There’s a lot going on in each of our worlds and you have to juggle and balance and do the best you can but you have to invest the time,” he said. “…But at the same time it was short term, and I said, ‘I can do this!’”
‘Stretching Your Brain’
Teel decided to enroll in Tulsa Community College (TCC)’s pharmacy tech program because her hours as a school secretary were reduced, reported Tulsa World on February 19, 2014. Teel said she did not mind that many of her fellow students were quite a bit younger; in fact she has liked spending time with them. She has also enjoyed the curriculum. “It stretches my brain, that’s for sure,” said Teel. “But I couldn’t say enough good things about the teachers there at TCC. They’ll work with you when it’s not class time if you’re having trouble. … They’re very helpful, and they want to see you succeed.”
ACCC’s Plus 50 Initiative
TCC and Ivy Tech are among at least 100 schools across the country that are part of the American Association of Community Colleges’ Plus 50 Initiative. The ACCC project, which began in 2008, is working with community colleges to develop programs that engage and are relevant to those 50 years and older; the program focuses on developing career opportunities, particularly in the health care, education and social service sectors. Thus the initiative strives to train baby boomers to become pharmacy technicians, medical billers and coders, ultrasound techs, early childhood educators, substance abuse counselors and more!