À échelle humaine: Giving new height to your career

2016-2017 Issue 1

IMG_3981Universities have long tried to reach out to people at different stages of their careers. The wide-ranging course offerings of their continuing education departments have helped those looking for flexibility. Now, with careers changing more often and the economic landscape constantly shifting, continuing education faculties are playing an even greater role in helping people reach their goals.

Continuing education answers a need for those looking to advance their careers or dive deep into a subject.

Its appeal spans the demographic, attracting several types of people, including

  • Professionals, who look for courses that will help them advance in their careers or help them keep up with changes in their industry;
  • Entrepreneurial twenty-somethings, who, before getting their project off the ground, need to gain some knowledge from a person who has been on that same path;
  • People in the middle of their careers, who need to up their qualifications in light of a changing workforce;
  • Recently arrived immigrants who need to learn the Quebec landscape and may need to pick up additional skills to become more attractive recruits;
  • Retirees, who loathe the idea of playing golf and bridge all day and are hungry for stimulating courses.

For Dr. Judith Potter, Dean of Continuing Studies at McGill University, this type of learning has become a critical component in people’s professional development. “It’s not so much the degree that defines us but those add-ons that position us.”

Potter, who holds both a Masters and Doctorate in Adult Education, has seen the trend in higher education toward shorter credentials, but that doesn’t mean people don’t want something like a diploma to show for all their efforts. “People still like to have some sort of qualification.”

Potter completed her degrees as a single parent, which makes her relate to the people who overcome challenges and enroll in courses to try to improve their prospects. She also has been heartened by the numbers of newly arrived Canadians she sees, whose presence adds to the diversity of the School of Continuing Studies.

People getting out of their routines to take courses also see improvements to their lives, building up casual and professional networks, which come in handy as they look for work and acclimate to Quebec. On that note, Potter is proud to mention that the School recently held its first job fair and is planning to set up an internship program.

Potter is a big booster for the power of life-long learning and its transformational powers. “Continuing education changes the lives of individuals and their families,” she says, noting how it has a ripple effect on everyone around the person. “At the convocation ceremony, I see the graduates with their kids and family. They are so proud and it is so rewarding to have made a contribution, having them move along, improving their lives and the lives of their kids. I feel very much privileged to be part of that.”

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