UCLA Teams With Private Company to Offer Online Career Training

In shaky economies, continuing education for adults becomes perhaps more important than ever. Re-education may offer the key to finding successful employment or, beyond that, just finding a career to enjoy. UCLA, in a partnership with the Encore Career Institute, may have found an innovative way to help baby boomers switch their careers mid-life, though some educational administrators aren't sold on the idea.

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By Eric Garneau

Opportunity for Educators and the Educated

UCLA's certainly not the only college in the country looking to expand its educational programs to a new market. However, it's taking a fairly unique tactic to accomplish that goal. In spreading their curriculum, the school's teamed up with a for-profit job company, a couple of venture capitalists and a premiere talent agency (CAA, or Creative Artists Agency).

That for-profit company, the Encore Career Institute, intends to provide UCLA Extension program classes aimed specifically at learners of the Baby Boom generation who want to switch careers. The program isn't expected to start until the fall of 2012, but as of now it's thought that most offerings will take the form of 1- to 2-year certificate programs in subjects like paralegal studies and project management.

How it Works

The venture capitalists and CAA contribute to Encore's marketing, as well as the ways in which it helps clients find the education programs right for them. Taking a cue from sites like eHarmony (the service from which Encore CEO Steve Poizner acquired his engineers), Encore's interface will literally match up clients with the careers that, in theory, will make them the happiest.

While UCLA benefits from a potential nationwide audience for its classes, Poizner and his investors, too, stand to gain from this partnership. UCLA's built a good name for itself in the world of education; lending its classes to Encore is akin to guaranteeing the quality of Encore's educational component.

Potential Objections

Despite the benefit this could bring to UCLA, not all educators are convinced of its worth. The Chronicle of Higher Education quotes Daniel Simmons, the chair of the California university system's academic senate, who notes that he'd be 'concerned about the effort it might take from UCLA's core mission.' The school's partnership with a for-profit company might especially give other educators pause.

Other administrators, like Cathy Sandeen, the dean of UCLA's Extension program, argue that a private partnership is the only way for the school to reach such a massive audience. UCLA still maintains total control of Encore's course content and can refuse to approve any classes it feels don't meet its usual academic standards. Though Encore's launch is still over a year away, many will likely be watching the program to see whether it can indeed be successful in helping adults transition careers, not to mention if UCLA's expansion model is one that bears replicating.

Are you an adult looking to switch careers? While you wait for this program to start, check out more traditional career move options.

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