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1 APPSO BGS DACSO DEVSO Learning New Tricks : Midlife Learners from Public Post- Secondary Certificate, Diploma, and Associate Degree Programs Much has been written lately on B.C. s ageing workforce and the need to prepare for skills shortages. Lifelong learning continues to be an important factor in that preparation, and many people over 35 are entering or returning to post-secondary education. What are their circumstances and how do these affect their program choices? What credentials do they pursue? Do they face particular financial challenges? INFORMATION PAPER Volume 9 No. 1 Winter 2011 ISSN This paper is from a series presenting information on subjects of interest, using data from the BC Student Outcomes surveys. This Information Paper and others are available at outcomes.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/ Default/Publications.aspx. Introduction According to Statistics Canada, the workforce is getting older: over a ten year period ending in 2009, the median age of the working-age population (those aged 15 to 64) increased two years, from 38.4 to In B.C., 43 percent of the 2010 working population was in the age group of 35 to 54. Middle-aged people are a big segment of the working population and they are seeking training and education opportunities. 1 For many years, B.C. s post-secondary education students have included a large number of older or midlife learners those aged 35 to 54. make up almost one-fifth of former post-secondary students, including baccalaureate graduates, former apprenticeship trainees, and those who completed or nearly completed diploma, associate degree, and certificate programs. Overview were more likely than other survey respondents to be parents, and they had high rates of previous post-secondary education. For their more recent studies, they tended to choose shorter, applied programs with a certificate as the credential. At the time of the survey, midlife learners had very good employment outcomes, with rates of employment and hourly wages that were significantly higher than those of other respondents. Employed midlife learners were much more likely than other employed respondents to say they had had the same job while they were studying. Of those who had the same job, midlife learners were more likely than younger respondents to say their employment was related to their education, suggesting that many midlife learners enrolled in post-secondary studies to improve skills for jobs they already had.

2 These midlife learners are likely to have personal and work commitments that make scheduling education a challenge they may prefer programs with flexible schedules and shorter terms. Because of family responsibilities, they may face financial challenges that other students do not. Unlike many younger students, their decision to study could be motivated by a desire to upgrade skills for a job they already have. An examination of midlife learners in comparison with other postsecondary students provides important information that can be used by education planners to structure appropriate programs and services and to understand labour market outcomes. Has the age makeup of students changed over the last 10 years? The age of former students surveyed in the Diploma, Associate Degree, and Certificate Student Outcomes (DACSO) Survey has been consistent over the last 10 years. The median age of respondents has been 24 or 25 in each year, and the proportion of mid- The proportion of DACSO respondents who were midlife learners (aged 35 to 54) has been relatively consistent over 10 years 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% E E E E E E E E E E F F F F G G G G F F F F F F G G G G G G life learners in DACSO has been between 19 and 22 percent over the years 2001 to In each of those years, the proportion of females who were midlife learners was higher (by 7 to 11 percentage points) than that of males. In 2010, 19 percent of DACSO respondents were in the midlife learners group. By way of comparison, the percentage of respondents to the Apprenticeship Student Outcomes (APPSO) Survey who were in the midlife learner s group has decreased since 2005, the first year the survey was conducted. The 2005 proportion of midlife learners was 28 percent; by 2010 it was 24 percent. APPSO respondents were, on average, a little older than DACSO E Females G Males F Overall Note: Age is at the me of the survey. Data for this paper Unless otherwise noted, the data for this analysis are from the 2010 Diploma, Associate Degree, and Certificate Student Outcomes (DACSO) Survey. In 2010, 3,026 respondents 19 percent of all DACSO respondents were identified as midlife learners; i.e., they were aged 35 to 54 at the time of the survey. were more likely to respond. Their response rate in 2010 was 67 percent, compared with 60 percent for all respondents. Data on age over the last 10 years come from the DACSO 2001 to 2010 surveys. 2 Supplementary data have been taken from the 2010 Apprenticeship Student Outcomes (APPSO) Survey. The 2010 APPSO Survey had a response rate of 56 percent; however, the APPSO midlife learners responded at the rate of 63 percent. There were 658 APPSO respondents who were in the age group of 35 to 54 this number is 24 percent of APPSO respondents. Data have also been taken from the two-yearout Baccalaureate Graduates Survey (BGS); most numbers quoted are from the 2010 data, although the percentage of midlife learners over time comes from the 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2010 surveys. In 2010, there were 1,234 midlife learners 13 percent of BGS respondents. Page 2

3 respondents the median age of all APPSO respondents in 2010 was 28. Findings from the Baccalaureate Graduates Survey (BGS) indicate the proportion of midlife learners who responded to the survey has remained relatively consistent over the past ten years, ranging from a low of 11 percent in 2002, hitting a high of 14 percent in 2006 and 2008, then going to 13 percent in 2009 and The median age of all BGS respondents in 2010 was 27. What were the characteristics of former students in this age group? Two-thirds of the midlife DACSO respondents were female. This group also had a very high proportion of learners who were parents fully two-thirds had been raising children while they studied, either as part of a couple or as a single parent. were much more likely to be parents than were other students surveyed by DACSO. were more likely to be parents than were other DACSO respondents Part of a couple with children Single, no children Part of a couple, no children Single parent 2% 5% 17% 16% 16% 13% 55% 76% differed from other DACSO respondents in some additional areas. They were less likely to have been Canadian born and more likely to have been naturalized Canadians or permanent residents at the time of the survey: 33 percent of midlife learners were naturalized or permanent residents versus 19 percent of other students. were more likely to have learned English as an additional language (30 percent, compared with 21 percent of other respondents), and they were much more likely to have learned it as an adult. Of those who learned English as an additional language, midlife learners were more likely than others to have learned it as an adult As a child (aged 12 or earlier) As a teenager (aged 13 to 17) As an adult (aged 18 or over) At a combina on of ages 6% 3% 11% 23% 23% 32% 39% 63% Note: Percentages above are based on DACSO respondents who learned English as an addi onal language. A higher percentage of DACSO midlife learners identified themselves as Aboriginal: 7 percent, compared with 4 percent of other respondents. The percentage of midlife learners who were female was higher for Aboriginal midlife learners (72 percent) than for midlife learners overall (68 percent). In the 2010 APPSO Survey, 5 percent of midlife learners identified themselves as Aboriginal, compared with 4 percent of other APPSO respondents. The proportion of APPSO respondents who were female was low (5 percent overall), with very little difference between midlife learners and others. The percentage of midlife learners who were naturalized Canadians or permanent residents was significantly higher than the corresponding percentage for other APPSO respondents (19 percent versus 7 percent). What programs did older students take? Most DACSO midlife learners focussed their studies on programs that were applied ; that is, programs that prepare students for employment in a specific field. Very few midlife respondents took the primarily academic Arts and Sciences programs. Instead, Page 3

4 the largest proportion of midlife learners took applied programs in health, and of those students, almost two-thirds (65 percent) studied in nursing-related (e.g. licensed practical nurse) or health aide programs. were less likely to have taken Arts and Sciences programs Program group Midlife learners Other respondents Health 29% 13% Business and Management 17% 16% Trades 15% 22% Educa on 10% 2% Engineering and Applied Sciences 9% 10% Human and Social Services 8% 6% Arts and Sciences 8% 26% Visual and Performing Arts 2% 5% Total 100% 100% Note: Data are from the 2010 DACSO survey. The program mix of respondents to the 2010 Baccalaureate Graduates Survey was somewhat different, notably with regard to Arts and Sciences programs. Almost half of all respondents to the BGS were enrolled in those types of programs; however, midlife learners were less likely than others to have taken these general, academic programs. Midlife learners were much more likely to have studied in health and education programs than were other BGS respondents. BGS midlife learners were less likely than other BGS respondents to have taken Arts & Sciences programs Program group Midlife learners Other respondents Arts and Sciences 27% 48% Health 20% 8% Educa on 18% 9% Human and Social Services 13% 7% Business and Management 10% 14% Engineering and Applied Sciences 8% 9% Visual and Performing Arts 4% 5% Trades 0% 0% Total 100% 100% Note: Data are from the 2010 BGS. What credentials were they seeking? Almost three-quarters of the DACSO midlife learners (73 percent) had taken certificate programs. These types of programs are shorter, usually one year or less in length, compared with diploma or associate degree programs, which typically take two years to complete. 73% Most DACSO midlife credential seekers pursued a certificate 44% Cer ficate Diploma Associate degree 24% 43% 3% 13% Over two-thirds (69 percent) of DACSO midlife learners had undertaken post-secondary studies prior to enrolling in their diploma, associate degree, or certificate programs; fewer than half (44 percent) of other respondents said the same. were were much more likely than other students to have had previous post-secondary credentials Associate degree, diploma, cer ficate Baccalaureate Trades creden al Graduate degree Did not complete a creden al 6% 1% 14% 14% 9% 20% 25% 29% Note: Percentages are based on DACSO respondents who had taken previous post-secondary educa on. 49% 51% Page 4

5 much more likely to have achieved a previous credential of those who took previous post-secondary education, 80 percent said they had a credential. Of the other respondents who had taken prior post-secondary, 49 percent got a credential. Over half (56 percent) of the APPSO respondents who were surveyed in 2010 had taken previous postsecondary studies, including Foundation pre-apprenticeship programs, before they became apprentices. were more likely than others to have taken previous post-secondary education: 64 percent, compared with 54 percent of other APPSO respondents. The respondents who had taken previous postsecondary studies other than Foundation trades programs were asked if they had achieved a credential midlife learners were more likely to say yes (71 percent of midlife learners who took previous education had received a previous credential, compared with 51 percent of other APPSO respondents). What was their financial situation during their studies? As a group, DACSO midlife learners were less likely than other DACSO respondents to borrow to support their studies. Their rate of borrowing from govern- were less likely than others to borrow for their studies; for those who borrowed, the amounts did not differ much $11,000 J 19% F 29% J Government loan amount Government student loans $10,000 J $5,000 $5,000 25% F 34% F Other loan amount Loans from other sources Note: Loan amounts are medians, based on those who borrowed. Data are from the 2010 DACSO survey. ment student loan programs was significantly lower, as was their borrowing from other sources. 3 For the midlife learners who borrowed, the amounts they owed were similar to amounts borrowed by others, although the government student loan amount was a little higher ($11,000, compared with $10,000 for other respondents). In general, former students who took shorter programs were less likely to borrow for their studies. Even for the respondents who took certificate programs (the programs that were shorter), midlife learners borrowed at a lower rate than others: 15 versus 19 percent for government loans and 27 versus 30 percent for other loans. Interestingly, in spite of this group s high rate of previous education, midlife learners were less likely than other respondents to have had outstanding debt when they started their diploma, associate degree, or certificate programs (6 percent and 8 percent, respectively). On the other hand, midlife learners indicated they were more likely to face financial difficulties during their studies. Compared with other students, a higher percentage took their programs part-time for financial reasons (23 percent versus 15 percent). As well, they were somewhat more likely to have interrupted their studies for financial reasons (15 percent, compared with 13 percent). What were their employment outcomes? A year or more after leaving their diploma, associate degree, and certificate programs, midlife learners had high rates of labour force participation and employment. Their labour force participation rate was 93 percent; for other respondents from the survey, the rate was 82 percent. were much less likely than others to be studying again at the time of the survey: 22 percent of midlife learners were studying, compared with 42 percent of others. This partially accounts for the difference in the labour force participation rates, since full-time students are not as likely as others to be in the labour force. Page 5

6 The unemployment rate of midlife learners was lower than that of other respondents (9 percent versus 12 percent). 4 For those who were employed, midlife learners were more likely to be employed full-time in a permanent position; they also had a higher rate of self-employment. Employment outcomes for DACSO midlife learners were good similar, except that those from certificate programs were more likely to be employed. Close to half (45 percent) of employed midlife learners had the same job they had while they were studying. This compares with 37 percent of other respondents. The midlife learners who had the same job were more likely than other midlife learners to be employed full-time and to have a permanent position. Permanent posi on 82% 78% DACSO midlife learners who had had the same job while studying have especially strong employment outcomes Employed full me 78% 72% Permanent posi on 76% 89% One job only 77% 79% Employed full me 83% 73% Self employed 7% 4% One job only 77% 77% Note: Percentages are based on employed respondents. The employment outcomes of midlife learners showed some differences according to the credential type of the programs they had enrolled in, although the main differences were between the associate degree credential type and the others. Most associate degree programs are taken by those who intend to transfer to a baccalaureate program, so many of the respondents leaving those programs were taking further education at the time of the survey instead of pursuing career goals. The outcomes for those who took diploma programs and those who took certificate programs were Self employed Employment outcomes for DACSO midlife learners differed somewhat according to the credential type of the program they took Associate Degree Diploma Cer ficate Total Employed 70% 80% 85% 84% Permanent posi on 76% 80% 82% 82% Employed full- me 63% 79% 78% 78% One job only 72% 79% 77% 77% Self-employed 22% 6% 7% 7% Note: Percentages of Employed are based on all midlife respondents; percentages of other employment outcomes above are based on employed midlife respondents. 9% 6% Had same job Had new job Note: Percentages are based on employed midlife learners only. The better outcomes for those with the same job continued with wages: they earned a median wage of $24 per hour compared with $21 per hour for those with a new job. This pattern of employment outcomes for midlife learners is the reverse of what other respondents experienced. The other employed respondents who had the same job while they were studying earned less, on average, than those who got a new job ($15 per hour versus $17, respectively). The DACSO respondents who were not working but were looking for work 5 were asked to give the main reason they were not employed at the time of the survey. The largest proportion of that group responded simply that they couldn t find a job. were more Page 6

7 likely than other respondents to say they couldn t find a job (56 and 41 percent of those who were looking for work, respectively). Other main reasons included expecting a job soon or studying, although midlife learners were much less likely than other respondents to say they were studying. Unemployed DACSO midlife learners were more likely than other respondents to say they were not working because they could not find a job Top reasons DACSO respondents were not employed Midlife learners Other respondents Can't find a job 56% 41% Expec ng job soon 10% 9% Studying 9% 27% Temporarily laid off/seasonal work 6% 8% Permanently laid off 4% 4% Note: Percentages above are based on those who were unemployed and looking for work. For APPSO survey respondents, there were no real differences between midlife learners and other APPSO respondents in employment outcomes. Were their jobs likely to be related to their education? DACSO midlife learners were more likely than other DACSO respondents to be in employment that was related to their training: 83 percent of midlife learn- said their jobs were very or somewhat related to their training, regardless of credential type ers said their job was very or somewhat related to their training, while 62 percent of other respondents said the same. This difference between the groups persisted regardless of the credential type of the program they had taken. 6 who had had the same job while they were studying were less likely than other midlife learners to say their job was training-related (78 versus 86 percent), although the percentage was still very high much higher than the corresponding percentage for other respondents who had had the same job while they studied (47 percent). That such a high percentage of midlife learners said the job they had while studying was related to their education suggests they may have sought training that was connected to or that complemented their work. had high rates of training-related employment, even when they had the same job they had while studying Very or somewhat related to training Same job New job 78% 86% 47% 72% Note: Percentages are of employed DACSO respondents only. Most (94 percent) of the 2010 APPSO respondents had a job they said was related to their training, and almost all (96 percent) of APPSO midlife learners said their job was very or somewhat related to the apprenticeship training they took. The difference between midlife learners and other APPSO respondents was negligible. 83% 83% 72% 62% 61% 24% Cer ficate Diploma Associate degree Were there regional differences? At the time of the survey, the largest proportion of DACSO respondents were living in the Lower Mainland area midlife learners were a little less likely than other respondents to be living in the Lower Mainland; they were more spread out among the other three main regions of B.C. Note: Percentages are of employed DACSO respondents only. Page 7

8 After their studies, DACSO midlife learners were less likely than other respondents to be in the Lower Mainland Midlife Other Region learners respondents Lower Mainland 49% 56% Vancouver Island 18% 15% Interior & Kootenays 16% 14% Northern B.C. 10% 7% Outside B.C. 3% 3% Unknown 3% 5% Total 100% 100% Note: Data are from the 2010 DACSO Survey. Region is based on respondents postal code at the time of the survey. Outside B.C. is mainly other provinces plus a few USA respondents. surveyed in the BGS were also less likely to be in the Lower Mainland than were other BGS respondents. DACSO midlife learners had high rates of labour force participation, regardless of region Interior & Kootenays Lower Mainland Northern B.C. Vancouver Island Outside B.C. Overall 8% 10% 9% 8% 8% 9% In labour force Unemployed 93% 92% 91% 93% 97% 93% Region At the time of the survey, BGS midlife learners were less likely than other respondents to be located in the Lower Mainland Midlife learners Other respondents Lower Mainland 39% 50% Unknown 20% 21% Vancouver Island 14% 11% Interior & Kootenays 11% 6% Outside B.C. 10% 9% Northern B.C. 7% 3% Total 100% 100% Note: Data are from the 2010 BGS. Region is based on respondents postal code at the time of the survey. Whether in the Lower Mainland or other regions, DACSO midlife learners had high rates of labour force participation and low rates of unemployment. The labour force participation rate ranged from 91 percent in Northern B.C. to 97 percent for respondents Outside B.C. The unemployment rates were similar across regions, at 8 or 9 percent, although the rate in the Lower Mainland was 10 percent. Did midlife learners move between regions? Students often relocate from their home communities to pursue post-secondary studies, but midlife learners are less likely to do so. In 2010, 13 percent of the DACSO midlife learners reported that they had relocated to study, compared with 22 percent of other respondents who said the same. APPSO midlife learners, however, had relocated at a rate similar to other APPSO respondents (35 percent). While midlife learners were less likely than other DACSO respondents to have moved to a new region for their post-secondary studies, they were somewhat more likely to move to a different region after their studies. Overall, 13 percent of midlife learners moved after their diploma, associate degree, or certificate programs, compared with 10 percent of other DACSO respondents. The region of the Interior and Kootenays saw the highest percentages of students moving in to study and moving out afterward. Over one-third of APPSO midlife learners (35 percent) relocated from their home communities for their apprenticeship training. After completing their training, 18 percent of midlife learners moved from their region of study to a new region. Other former APPSO students responded similarly. Page 8

9 Interior & Kootenays Lower Mainland Northern B.C. Vancouver Island Conclusion are less likely to relocate to study but more likely to leave their region of study afterward in the post-secondary system comprise a large portion of all students. Almost one-fifth of respondents to student outcomes surveys are in the age group 35 to 54. This proportion has remained fairly stable over time, particularly for the Diploma, Associate Degree, and Certificate Student Outcomes Survey. are not necessarily a homogeneous group, but they do differ from younger students in some significant ways. They are much more likely to be female and to be parents. The group has a higher proportion of immigrants and students who learned English as an additional language. 26% 17% 11% 11% 12% 13% 16% 6% Relocated to study 7% 11% 11% 16% 20% 28% 28% Moved after studies Note: Percentages above are based on the region where DACSO respondents studied. Perhaps in part because of their family circumstances, midlife learners tend to choose shorter, applied programs the type of programs that focus on upgrading employment skills or getting students into the job market quickly. The fact that a majority of the midlife learners already had a credential when they began their recent studies could also have had an impact on program choices. Those who already had a degree or diploma may have been more likely to choose a certificate program that allowed them to upgrade skills. There is some evidence that midlife learners face financial challenges as they study, but instead of 35% borrowing to fund their education, they are more likely to attend parttime or interrupt their studies for financial reasons. Their rates of borrowing for government student loans and loans from other sources were lower than those of other students. low borrowing rates may be a result of continuous employment. At the time of the survey, employed midlife learners were much more likely than other respondents to say they had had the same job while they were studying. Compared with other respondents, midlife learners have very good employment outcomes, from a better overall employment rate to a much higher hourly wage. Their better employment outcomes can, in part, be ascribed to their age with age come experience and knowledge but their high rate of previous post-secondary credentials also plays a role. A large majority of employed midlife learners said their job was related to the training they took. Even most of the respondents who had the same job they had while studying said their employment was related. This latter finding is a good indication that many midlife learners enrolled in post-secondary education to improve their job skills, or for other reasons related to their employment. have low unemployment rates regardless of their location at the time of the survey across B.C. regions, they consistently outperform other respondents. In aggregate, this group s decision to attend or return to postsecondary education and their choice of program and credential have led to better than average employment outcomes. Page 9

10 Endnotes 1 Jan O Brien, Old Dogs Can Learn New Tricks, HR Voice, Learning & Development. 2 For the purpose of this analysis and to ensure comparability, former students from baccalaureate or Upper Level programs surveyed before 2006 have been removed from the dataset. Since 2006, former students from baccalaureate programs are surveyed through the Baccalaureate Graduates Survey. For more information refer to the Glossary and Guide under Using Outcomes Data on the BC Student Outcomes website (outcomes.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/ Default/OtherInfo/Using_ Outcomes_data.aspx). 3 Other sources include personal bank loans, credit card debt, and loans from family or friends. 4 The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed as a percentage of those in the labour force. 5 The unemployment rate for DACSO respondents was 11 percent by definition, these respondents were not working but looking for work. 6 This difference also persisted over time. The percentage of midlife learners who said their jobs were related to their training was consistently high, ranging between 80 and 87 percent over the ten-year period 2001 to About the surveys The BC Student Outcomes surveys referenced in this paper are part of an annual program to collect information from former post-secondary students. Those surveyed are asked to evaluate their educational experiences and to talk about their employment and further education. The surveys are conducted with funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education and from the participating post-secondary institutions. The Diploma, Associate Degree, and Certificate Student Outcomes (DACSO) Survey collects information from former students from diploma, associate degree, and certificate programs; the Apprenticeship Student Outcomes (APPSO) Survey targets former apprenticeship students who have completed the final level of their technical training; and the Baccalaureate Graduates Survey (BGS) is for baccalaureate graduates from all public degree-granting institutions. The results of the surveys are used by the institutions to improve programs. The province uses the information for post-secondary policy development, labour market analysis, and accountability. Students, parents, and the general public can access Search BC Post-Secondary Student Survey Results through the student outcomes website (outcomes.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/ SORSLite/SORSLiteHome.aspx) or go to Education Planner (www.educationplanner.ca/) to help them make informed post-secondary education choices. For more information on student outcomes, please see outcomes.bcstats.gov.bc.ca/. Page 10

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