Guest commentary: Community colleges a resource for lifelong learning

June 13, 2016

Rob Widmer

Rob Widmer, President of HCC

Throughout May, thousands of graduation ceremonies occurred. The term “graduation” indicates the conclusion of an educational journey in which an individual receives his or her diploma or academic degree. However, the word is often used synonymously with commencement, which means a beginning.

Commencement seems a more fitting term because one’s degree should not signify an end, but more of a new start on a path of lifelong learning.

Like community colleges across the United States, Heartland is dedicated to serving students in all stages of life. Programs offer professional learning opportunities, customized training for organizational needs and personal enrichment for all community members.

Learning should not stop once you enter the workforce. Continuous education is essential for improving your skills. Since 1993, Heartland’s Continuing Education department has helped thousands improve in their current jobs or gain the skills necessary for a new one.

Professionals can access the tools they need to elevate their management skills. For individuals looking at a new career, there’s a host of health care career training available, including medical billing and coding, phlebotomy and pharmacy technician.

Also, community colleges, including Heartland, routinely offer professional development and continuing education units for multiple industries.

Courses offered at community colleges are influenced by community needs as well as student choice. Offering customized experiences for an organization’s needs provides unique learning opportunities for their employees.

One local example includes Heartland's recent partnership with the United Steel Workers Union Local 787. A customized welding course addressed educational needs in the areas of safety and general welding practices. This personalized experience accommodated the workers’ unique schedules.

The Challenger Learning Center at Heartland provides another example. Customized missions improve employees’ communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills.

Henry Ford once said, “Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Many community colleges offer classes for personal enhancement that keep the mind and body active throughout life. From training for career advancement to learning for fun, Continuing Education courses enhance a community’s quality of life.

Lifelong learning can provide better jobs and bigger paychecks for individuals, and also is linked to increased physical and mental health, less crime and greater tolerance. As communities look to the future, ongoing workforce development opportunities and personal enrichment experiences offer significant contributions to individuals and the economy.

This article appeared in The Pantagraph as part of a guest commentary series.

Written by: Rob Widmer