Eau Claire (WQOW)- When the recession hit several years ago, we saw a shift in education.
Many people knew they needed to improve their skill set to become more marketable for employers. That's where higher learning steps in. Schools are adjusting to a new wave of non-traditional students.
The UW-System is developing a new Flexible Option degree.
"A lot of the folks that come in here are very demoralized," remembers Dan Lytle with the Eau Claire Job Center.
Lytle tries to connect candidates with available jobs. He's talking about non-traditional students: adults who may have children or a mortgage to pay, but don't have a college degree.
"They lose employment through no fault of their own and then they look back to how do I gain skills? I don't have a lot of time to invest. I need to get re-employed now. How do I go about doing that if I don't have the necessary skills needed?" says Lytle.
The UW-System is hoping to help by offering a more flexible program. Students can earn credits in only three months and be rewarded for skills they've already gained in the work force; like on-the-job training or military experience, which should speed up the process and make it more affordable.
Durwin Long serves as UW-Eau Claire's Director of Continuing Education, and says his university has a similar plan in place already called the Bachelor of Professional Studies degree.
"It's designed to meet the needs of working adults who have some college in their background," points out Long.
He says that usually means those who earned 60 credits or more, but never finished. The program allows them to take classes online on their own schedule. That flexibility could come in handy for workers who can't seem to climb up the business ladder because they are missing that all-important degree.
"They may not be able to get a promotion at work. They may not be able to get a new job if they are looking to make a change or they may not be able to get a job in a new field," Long says. "So for more and more working adults, including working adults here in Wisconsin, getting that Bachelor's degree is the ticket to getting a better job and a new career."
UW-Eau Claire says the Flexible Option degree will most likely start at some of the two-year UW-schools and the decision to bring the program to the Eau Claire campus will be up to the new chancellor.