DataPoints: Where adults go for training

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Nearly half (48%) of American workers between ages 24 and 64 have used community colleges at some point in their lives, according to a recent report from the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University. Of those who did tap community colleges, about one-quarter (26%) did so as adults, well after graduating from high school. Nearly seven in 10 (69%) of adults who used community colleges reported positive outcomes, such as earning a degree or certificate for transferring to a four-year institution, the report says.

When considering training options over their careers, adult workers were more likely to use community colleges than any venue except online programs (20% compared to 29%, respectively), according to the CCRC report. But, over time fewer adults used community colleges, losing ground most notably to online programs. At five or more years prior to the survey on which the report is based, community colleges were the leading source of training that people sought out on their own. Within a year prior to the survey, community colleges had a lower use rate than other options, with the exception of union programs.

“Presumably, this pattern is due in part to changing interests and circumstances among workers as they age and is no doubt also driven by the increased availability of online programs in recent years (given that many, if not most, were not available for older respondents when they were young),” the report says.

So what online training programs did they use? About 16% of respondents reported using YouTube or similar streaming platforms, 38% used free online courses (outside YouTube or similar platforms), 38% paid for courses, and 7% indicated the courses were “something else.”

For the report, the center used data from the American Training Survey that was conducted in January 2020, just prior to the Covid pandemic. The sample was 3,648 respondents.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.