Gary, Ind. — Ivy Tech Community College-Northwest was recently selected to join the Plus 50 Encore Completion Program, a national effort to train 10,000 baby boomers for new jobs in healthcare, education and social services. The program is sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Ivy Tech is one of 17 colleges recently selected for the project. The Northwest region has four campuses located in Gary, Valparaiso, East Chicago and Michigan City.

The college will assist adults age 50 and over in completing degrees or certificates in high-demand occupations that give back to the community. With many adults age 50 and over out of work or seeking to transition to a new career, the program offers skill updates and career makeovers. Ivy Tech Northwest will prepare older adults for such careers as community health workers and pharmacy technicians.

LaShung Willis, director of the Ivy Tech-Northwest Health Industry Institute for Education and Training Services (HIIETS), is excited about the possibilities that the grant offers for recruiting for the Community Health Worker program. Community health workers provide health outreach, assistance, and management of patients overall health outcomes. Community health workers are also integral to the new government mandates of helping patients or potential patients receive care before they need acute care in a hospital or long-term health setting, thus reducing medical costs.

“Those recruited for the program will work in paid positions for health organizations on primary care teams or as case managers,” said Willis. “Each community health worker will receive 48 hours of training and upon completion will earn a program completion certificate. The goal is to make the 50-plus population aware of this career opportunity and encourage them to continue their education in other healthcare careers.”

The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program is offered by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). Since 2008, AACC and its network of Plus 50 Initiative colleges have worked with baby boomers to help them prepare for new careers such as Ivy Tech Northwest’s Community Health Worker program. An independent evaluation of AACC’s Plus 50 Initiative found that 89 percent of students agreed that college work force training helped them acquire new job skills, and 72 percent attributed landing a job to such training.

“Many adults age 50 and over want to train for new jobs that help others and are hiring, but they need to update their skills. Community colleges offer a supportive environment where baby boomers can train for new jobs quickly and affordably,” said Mary Sue Vickers, director for the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC.

In addition to grant funds to augment training programs, participating colleges gain access to toolkits and extensive marketing resources tailored to reach baby boomers. They’ll also benefit from the advice and support of staff at other community colleges that have successfully implemented programs for older learners and understand the unique needs of the plus 50 student population.

The Plus 50 Encore Completion Program is funded with a $3.2 million grant to AACC provided by Deerbrook Charitable Trust. The Plus 50 Encore Completion program supports AACC’s work to increase the number of students who finish degrees, certificates, and other credentials. In April 2010, AACC committed alongside other higher education organizations, to promote the development and implementation of policies, practices and institutional cultures that will produce 50 percent more students with high quality degrees and certificates by 2020.

For more information about the Plus 50 Initiative at AACC, see

For more information about the Community Health Worker program, contact LaShung Willis at (219) 981-4402 or

Ivy Tech Community College is the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system serving nearly 200,000 students annually.

Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering affordable degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its community along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is a national organization representing close to 1,200 communities, junior and technical colleges nationwide. Community colleges are the largest and fastest growing sector of higher education, enrolling more than 13 million credit and non-credit students annually. More information is available at