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July 15, 2009 > A Booming Opportunity

A Booming Opportunity

Ohlone College awarded grant for "green" encore careers

By Alyson Whitaker

Reaching retirement age is something that nearly everyone looks forward to. But it can be a rude awakening, once the day arrives to discover that the unlimited golf you had once dreamed of isn't as appealing as the anticipation. More and more baby boomers are coming to the realization that there is a lot of life left to live after age 50 and they are seeking opportunities to give something back to the community.

The Community College Encore Career Initiative supports community colleges that are helping individuals over age 50 prepare for "encore careers." More than just another job, an encore career combines continued income with personal meaning and social impact.

Ohlone College in Newark is one of just eight community colleges nationwide, and the only one in California, to receive a $25,000 grant from Civic Ventures/MetLife Foundation to assist in program development to retrain experienced adults for an encore career. The selection panel looked at nearly one hundred community colleges that are piloting programs to retrain baby boomers for a second career in education, health care, social services, and for the first time this year, jobs in the "green" economy.

The Ohlone-Newark Center for Health Sciences and Technology is the first and only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified green campus in the world. The campus incorporates energy efficient features like solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling, and high-efficiency lighting. The interior includes insulation made from recycled blue jeans, carpets made from recycled material, and furniture that is made from at least 65% recycled materials. The goal of the design team was to create a campus that had minimal impact on the environment, and could provide opportunities for students and other building users to learn about environmental issues and sustainable design technologies.

Judy Goggin, Vice President of Civic Ventures, headed the grant project this year. She said that Ohlone College's program stood out among the applicants because of its innovative approach to training older adults to enter the "green-collar" workforce. Speaking with employers in the environmental arena, they discovered that while young people are being prepared for green jobs, these young employees often need help adapting to the work force.

However, as experienced engineers, electricians, general contractors, and trades people receive specific training for new green jobs, they are then able to mentor younger employees entering the work force for the first time. By tapping into the expertise of older, more experienced individuals, the workplace environment is improved all around. Goggin says, "It's a win-win situation. The boomers can benefit from the new opportunity, and the community benefits from the experience and wisdom shared by the more seasoned employees."

While in the past, continuing education for retirees and older adults consisted primarily of hobby-driven interests, today's boomers are pushing the boundaries of higher education. More than just to satisfy a personal need for self-improvement, there is the desire to broaden their circle of influence. As community colleges invest in innovative opportunities, benefits are felt by both the individuals involved and the communities in which they live.

The grant period began July 1, and plans are underway for rolling out the program in early 2010. For details on the application process and further information on the program, please contact Professor Narinder Bansal at nbansal@ohlone.edu or Dr. Gale Carli, Dean of Health Sciences and Environmental Studies, at gcarli@ohlone.edu.

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