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New College Program to Launch Your Second Career

Empowered UCLA Extension lets you take classes on your iPad and get job counseling, too

By Walecia Konrad | November 13, 2012

Chances are you’ve seen the new “Transform Your Career” TV ad with such stars as Sally Field, George Lopez and James Gandolfini pitching something called Empowered UCLA Extension, a new online education program. But you may be wondering what this new venture targeting the second-career crowd is all about.

Empowered Careers is a nine-month to one-year certificate program (total tuition: $5,940) offered by UCLA Extension — the continuing education arm of UCLA — that was founded by the Sherry Lansing Foundation, Creative Artists Agency and the former high-tech entrepreneur and California insurance commissioner, Steve Poizner. The program offers scholarships to prospective students with household incomes below $60,000.

The goal: Help boomers reinvent themselves and advance their careers by learning practical skills and receiving job counseling.

(MORE: Why You May Want to Get a College Certificate)

The method: You take six to nine 10-week classes on your iPad (you’ll need to buy one if you don’t have one) and use the tablet to complete coursework as well as to receive the counseling. You need a Bachelor's degree to enroll in a few, but not most, of the certificate programs. The Winter Quarter starts Jan. 9.

Students graduate with UCLA Extension certificates in global sustainability, health care management, nonprofit management, IT management, patient advocacy, college counseling, project management, financial planning, human resources, and marketing and new media. (More programs are planned for next year.)

Next Avenue spoke with Poizner, chief executive and founding partner of Empowered UCLA Extension, to learn more:

Next Avenue: How did you come up with the idea of an online career institute for boomers?

Poizner: I’m a boomer myself; I’m 55 years old. The idea was to help boomers transform their careers, whether out of necessity or desire. Many boomers were wiped out in the housing bubble and can’t afford to retire. Others are doing just fine financially, but not happily so. They want their dream career.

Meanwhile, an online learning system made a lot of sense. Our program is designed for busy adults who don’t have time to drive to a college campus and who don’t want to spend a lot of time learning a new technology. That's why we focused on the iPad platform.

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We also determined that one year was the sweet spot. Boomers don’t want to invest two or three years in an advanced degree.

How did you choose which types of courses to offer?  

We wanted to focus on areas where boomers could take advantage of their previous backgrounds to shift into new careers and where their seasoning, experience and wisdom was an advantage.

We picked our areas carefully. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data confirms that in the areas we focused on — such as health care, education, environmental sustainability and professional services — jobs are available and will continue to grow in the future.

Take patient advocacy, for example. As the former insurance commissioner of California, I saw this new position of patient advocate emerging. Patient advocates can help solve medical problems efficiently and quickly. Since the health care system is complicated, especially with health care reform and state regulatory issues, people need help.

(MORE: Encore Careers)

Another great example of a second career is college admissions counseling. If you want to be in an education-oriented job but you’re not necessarily a teacher, this is perfect.

How can potential students figure out which program would be best?

We have an assessment tool on our website to help answer that question. The assessment determines: Would this new career be a good fit based on your past? We give people pretty frank feedback. The assessment helps find your strengths and matches you to an appropriate program.

How does the program help its graduates transition into new careers and find jobs?

We have a team of career coaches and program advisers that use video and chat as well as telephone calls to communicate with students. You also receive an extra year’s worth of career counseling once you complete the program and earn a certificate.

Many people don't know how to market themselves, especially in a new field. We try to provide the counseling that will get boomers up to speed.