The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

TCC to create program for older students returning to work

By Rhiannon Saegert/managing editor

TCC is using grants from two national organizations to create a certification program for people 50 years or older who need to return to the workforce.

“The Back to Work 50 Plus was inspired by the work being done at the national level to look at the long-term unemployed,” continuing education services vice president Jacqueline Washington said. “Even here in Tarrant County, those individuals 50-plus who are unemployed are documented to take at least a year or more to get employed again, so it’s taking much longer.”

In November 2012, TCC was awarded the Plus 50 on core completion grant from the American Association of Community Colleges. TCC used the grant to research how to best support students 50 years or older.

“The emphasis is on supporting students to complete certificates and degrees,” special project coordinator Debra Sykes West said. “That was the initial launch of us really looking closely at the population.”

TCC was awarded the second grant by the American Association of Retired Persons in December.

Sykes West said the AARP grant was used to fund a new program called Back to Work 50 Plus. The program is meant for low-income, unemployed or underemployed individuals 50 and over who are returning to the workforce or need additional training for the jobs they have.

“They’re going to provide 32 scholarships a year, $18,000 per student, and we are focusing on office careers and health informatics,” Sykes West said.

The program will offer certificates for office assistants, administrative assistants, medical secretaries and accounting technicians as well as health informatics certifications.

“Again, that program is designed to help people get employed — specifically, training that’s going to help them get a job or keep a job that they currently have,” Sykes West said.

The program has a different goal than TCC’s regular continuing education courses. The program is meant for people with a pressing need to enter the workforce as soon as possible.

“One of the points of emphasis with the diversity and inclusion survey was that there were students 50-plus who didn’t feel really engaged or fully engaged at TCC,” Sykes West said. “And so as the results were released in the spring, we were launching our program.”

Another survey for students 50 years and older ends April 4 and can be found at

“We should get the results back over the next two weeks, and we intend to publish that, get feedback of what they like, don’t like, what can Tarrant County College do to better support this population,” Washington said.

Sykes West and Washington have also reached out to Club 50+, a NE Campus student organization.

The club’s adviser, mental health assistant professor Cynthia Savage, said she sees a need for support and a community for 50-plus students among club members as well as her own students.

“There’s a need for it because people retire at 60, 65. Well, they still have 20 years to live,” she said. “In my program, I have seen the need. The majority of my students are nontraditional.”

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