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Lifelong Learning: It’s never too late to head back to school

Lifelong Learning: It’s never too late to head back to schoolIt used to be rare for adults to return to the classroom after earning their degrees and starting their careers. My, how times have changed.

These days, more and more adults are “hitting the books” later in life to enhance their skills, switch careers or simply indulge their intellectual interests. Today’s competitive job market is making the need for continual training and skill building a necessity for many, said Nancy Weber, vice president of Continuing Education and Institutional Advancement at Technical College of the Lowcountry.

“Employers are looking for skilled workers who can multi-task, are technology savvy, and have strong communication and reasoning skills,” Weber said. “Anytime an individual can add skills or upgrade, it is a plus for their job search.”

And many adults are heading back to school for the skills necessary to change careers altogether. The most popular programs at TCL include Certified Nursing Assistant and Emergency Medical Technician, Weber said. “We usually know who is hiring and has openings. The CNAs are in steady demand from nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and for personal in-home care. And EMTs are also in demand in our four counties.”

Those wanting to enhance their skills in the hospitality industry will soon have a place to go right on Hilton Head Island. The College of Hospitality and Culinary Arts is planned for 2011 and will be part of the American Hospitality Academy, said Cindi Reiman, the academy’s founder and president.

“Vocational-type schools are becoming a lot more popular because you have a job generally associated with your education, rather than, say, a liberal arts degree,” Reiman continued.

But the culinary school on Hilton Head won’t just cater to those with career plans. A program called “Let’s Cook Hilton Head” will allow residents to indulge their culinary interests with fun classes on Lowcountry cuisine.

Catering to the interests and intellectual pursuits of local residents is something the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute has been doing for years. The local institute is one of the largest in a nationwide network of lifelong learning programs, said Dan Campbell, director for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at University of South Carolina-Beaufort.

Though most student members in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute are seniors, age 55 and up, they’ve had students as young as 10 and as old as 97, Campbell said. The most popular classes are those on history and health, but the subject matter isn’t as important as the actual act of lifelong learning, he said.

“Medical studies prove that people who keep mentally active are going to live longer and they’re going to live a richer life,” Campbell said. “They’re going to get more enjoyment out of it.”