Americans are turning to continuing education and lifelong learning classes to deal with the tough times, according to surveys of programs around the country by the Learning Resources Network (LERN), a national association in lifelong learning.

“Over the last six months our industry has turned almost completely around and re-oriented classes and courses to respond to the needs of the public during the recession,” notes LERN President William A. Draves.

Whether it is professional or work-related learning, or avocational and leisure learning, the main theme is addressing the tough economic times. 

With avocational learning, Americans are taking more courses around the concept of “frugality.”  Popular courses include home repair, cooking, gardening, auto repair, and other activities that save money.    

With work-related learning, work skills, trades and second income occupations are getting more attention. 

There are two things going on right now in the workplace. 

The first is the need for more skills to compete in a tough marketplace. 

The second is the need for new skills that respond to the information economy of the new century, skills that will be integral to work long after the recession ends. 

Certificate programs continue to get strong enrollments because they develop and document sets of work skills for present and future employers. 

The trend toward more specialized topics, offered in short intensive formats, will continue.  So will the growth in online courses, which has jumped over the past two years. 

This report from LERN underscores the importance of lifelong learning.

UT Professional & Personal Development offers different types of continuing education courses and programs, including numerous summer offerings

Darrin Devault, UT Professional & Personal Development

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