Working Adult Students and Employers Benefit from Higher Education

The time is right for working adult students to pursue higher education. Higher education institutions are responding to demands to make education relevant to students and industry. This means that higher education today and in the future may be different from education in the past, and now may be the perfect opportunity for working adults to recognize ways that work and education can create blended opportunities.

Stanford 2025, a project designed to help educators create supportive learning environments, and Georgetown University have explored ways that education is adapting to make education more relevant. These include making education more experiential, integrating work experiences and education, and providing life-long learning opportunities. These three challenges facing higher education institutions are highly relevant to working adult students.

Higher education institutions that seek to make education more experiential, immersive and skills oriented are creating a student experience that working adults live each day. As working adult students learn skills and knowledge they have the opportunity to apply their new skills and evaluate their learning progress. They are naturally immersed in the learning process because skills are reinforced as they work.

The immersion that comes with experiential education is one of the ways people can make themselves “robot proof,” says Northeastern University President Dr. Joseph Aoun. Humans have an advantage over robots with the “experiential difference,” says Aoun. “Instead of pure numerical data inputs, we strengthen our mental connections through experience.” There is growth associated with lived experiences where working adult students apply what they are learning in the classroom to a work situation.

Higher education institutions work to increase the value and relevance of education for students by integrating education and work experience. Working adult students live this integration as they perform their jobs and apply their education. The report College, On Purpose from Complete College America shows that 63 percent of graduates are more likely to value their education if they understand the relevance of their courses and degree to their career. Working adult students who find ways to apply new skills at work understand the relevance of their courses to their career. And they can demonstrate this to their employer as they define problems at work and create solution.

Working adult students also develop a greater sense of purpose in their work when they see how it relates to their education. With a sense of purpose working adult students look toward creating an education plan as well as a plan for career growth. “When students have a strong sense of purpose early on, they are better able to take advantage of available resources and experiences intended to prepare them for future careers,” states the Complete College America report. This applies to both counseling at school to create a direct education plan and to developing a career plan at work which benefits both employer and working adult student.

Working adult students are beneficiaries when higher education institutions meet the challenge of providing lifelong learning opportunities. A Pew Research Center survey shows how Americans consider themselves ongoing learners.
• 73% of adults consider themselves lifelong learners.
• 63% of working adults have taken a course or gotten training to improve their job skills or prepare for career advancement
• 87% say their personal learning has helped them feel more capable
• 65 % says lifelong learning has expanded their professional network
• 47% say lifelong learning has helped them expand in their current company.

Both working adult students and their employers benefit when employees use their tuition assistance plans to either begin, continue or complete higher education. New knowledge and skills help workers learn to create solutions and solve problems. Companies can expand deeper into creative uses of artificial intelligence when employees have skills and critical thinking ability that makes it possible for them to integrate technology and the human experience. Working adult students will be continue to be valuable employees as they recognize and act on the need for life-long learning to keep knowledge new.