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Plus 50 Encore Completion Grant Awarded to Drake State


HUNTSVILLE, Al. – J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College was recently chosen to join the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program, a national effort to train 10,000 baby boomers for new jobs in health care, education and social services. The program is sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).


The college will assist adults age 50 and over in completing degrees or certificates in high-demand occupations that give back to the community. With many adults age 50 and over out of work or seeking to transition to a new career, the program offers skill updates and career makeovers for baby boomers. Drake State will focus on promoting healthcare as a career field, specifically its certified nursing assistant and new medical billing and coding program. The most recent State of the Workforce Report for Region 2 reveals three of the top five high-demand occupations, four of the top five fast-growth occupations, and eight of the top ten high-earning occupations in the area are in the healthcare field.


“Not only were we excited to have been selected to be a part of this much needed program, it is exactly aligned with the workforce training goals for our area,” said Beth Wester, Director of Workforce Development, who’s division is positioning itself to become the primary provider of workforce development education and training in the north Alabama region.


According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-2013) medical billing and coding is expected to grow rapidly, with a projected employment rate increase of 21 percent from 2010 to 2020 which is faster than the average for all occupations. In the Huntsville area, the medical records and health information field is expected to grow 2.82 percent between 2010 and 2020. This is slightly higher than the 2.22 percent projected growth rate for the state.


The demand for certified nursing assistants is expected to follow a similar trend, with a 20% national growth rate projected between 2010 and 2020. In the Huntsville area, the projected growth rate for CNAs is 2.16 %, which is higher than the 1.76% rate projected statewide during the same time period.


Drake State was the only Alabama institution of the 38 colleges designated by ACCA this year to join 62 colleges previously selected.


Drake State President Helen T. McAlpine noted that thanks to the award, the college will be able to reach out to the Tennessee Valley’s over 50 population more effectively.  “Our college is challenged to encourage older workers to engage in the training and education necessary for fill the anticipated void of workers that our local businesses and industries have projected through 2030.” She added that as an institution experienced in working with mature adults, Drake State has the student support services and resources required to provide quality and up-to-date instruction.


Since 2008, AACC and its network of Plus 50 Initiative colleges have supported baby boomers coming to college and helped them prepare for new careers. It’s a program that works. Eighty-nine percent of students participating in AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative told an independent evaluator that college workforce training helped them acquire new job skills, and 72 percent attributed landing a job to such training.


“Baby boomers who are out of work or want to transition into new career fields need to update their skills. Community colleges are affordable and working to help baby boomers, even if they’ve never stepped on a college campus before,” said Mary Sue Vickers, director for the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC.


Vickers added that many of the plus 50 adults who participate in the program also find great meaning and purpose in their work after they get hired. “Jobs in health care, education and social services give baby boomers a way to give back to society, so plus 50 adults find these careers to be particularly rewarding,” said Vickers.


In addition to providing grant funds that augment college workforce training programs, participating colleges gain access to toolkits and extensive marketing resources tailored to reach baby boomers. They also benefit from the advice and support of staff at other community colleges that have successfully implemented programs for older learners and understand the unique needs of the plus 50 student population.


The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program is funded with a $3.2-million grant to AACC provided by Deerbrook Charitable Trust. The Plus 50 Encore Completion program supports AACC’s work to increase the number of students who finish degrees, certificates, and other credentials.  In April 2010, AACC committed alongside other higher education organizations to promote the development and implementation of policies, practices and institutional cultures that will produce 50 percent more students with high quality degrees and certificates by 2020.


For more information about the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC, see
or contact Mrs. Beth Wester, Director of Workforce Development at (256) 551-5219.


****Please note: Neither the Plus 50 Encore Completion program nor financial aid covers students' tuition costs for this program. Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funding may be available through the Alabama Career Center. We encourage you to contact the Career Center for potential funding for this excellent program.

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