As the unemployment rate remains in the double digits in Los Angeles, many job seekers are taking advantage of available educational programs to strengthen their skills and learn a new craft. Meanwhile, an increasing number of educated working professionals are returning to the classroom in an effort to secure leading positions in a variety of fields.

(Photo Courtesy of Dr. Lynda Wilson)

(Photo Courtesy of Dr. Lynda Wilson)

“Approximately 80 percent of our students are working professionals with post-secondary, master’s or doctoral degrees,” said Dr. Lynda Wilson, director of the Humanities and Sciences Department at UCLA Extension. “During the academic year of 2012 and 2013, we’ve educated 38,535 students and offered a total of 2,225 academic and professional education courses.”

Dr. Wilson, who has been a teacher in post-secondary education for 12 years, said since the institution attracts enterprising students worldwide, the school’s disciplines have had to keep pace with transforming employment drifts.

“We feel our focus should be on the cutting edge of employment trends so that we offer courses and new certificate programs that will help working professionals learn additional knowledge and practical skills to compete in today’s economy,” said Dr. Wilson, who earned her Ph.D in human resource education and workforce development from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge.

A recent study conducted by UCLA Extension reveals that some of the top professional certificates most in demand by students encompass such fields as accounting, astronautical engineering, finance, government contract management, homeland security and public relations.

“The data indicates adult students want to invest in continuing education which will lead to careers where they can find and get jobs,” said Dr. Wilson. She added, being coached by working professionals with dimensional accomplishments carries a multitude of benefits.

“These instructors have their fingers on the pulse of their respective industry’s environments, including trends in growth, job opportunities and the impact of emerging technologies,” explained Dr. Wilson. “Learning something today in the classroom, which is then applied back on the job the next day, is great affirmation of learning and transfer of training for the students. They gain much insight into specific careers when their instructor is both academically qualified and is also a well-respected leader in their field.”

In addition to the psychological rewards that come with helping others become financially solvent, working professionals-turned-instructors are considered invaluable assets in vocational training.

“Working professionals want to share their knowledge with their students. They embrace innovation and are excited to use new tools in both the on-ground and online class modalities which bring their subjects to life,” said Dr. Wilson. “Instructors who are working professionals in their field can provide students with introductions to networking and internship opportunities, which is very important to students.”

Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to


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