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School for the Second Half of Life

Encore Career Institute targets boomers for online job retraining

In a triple-barreled initiative, Silicon Valley's high-tech wizardry, the University of California's brainpower and Hollywood's marketing muscle are joining forces to help struggling older workers land jobs.

The Encore Career Institute (ECI) of Los Gatos, Calif., a newly launched Internet-education company, plans to offer fast-track certificate programs by fall 2012 for older adults seeking to upgrade or learn new job skills.

See also: Top jobs for a career change over 50.

Funded by $15 million in venture capital, the start-up was cofounded by Sherry Lansing, the first woman to head a major Hollywood studio, and Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the world's largest sports and talent agency. The University of California-Los Angeles Extension will handle the online curriculum.

"This is the first online higher education venture targeted at boomers across the country," says Cathy Sandeen, dean of UCLA Extension. "We think it is novel, innovative and very much needed." While many community colleges, universities and private and nonprofit entities offer job retraining for older workers, she adds, those programs usually serve local or regional audiences.

Tuition is expected to run $5,000 to $10,000 for six- to 18-month certificate programs in health care, finance, green technology and other growing fields. Some courses will be culled from UCLA Extension's more than 100 certificate programs, while others will be designed based on employers' needs and suitability to adults ages 47 to 65.

"Jobs like college counselor or patient advocate that require wisdom, [experience] and good communication skills are ideal for post-retirement careers," Sandeen says.

Social networking to be used

The for-profit institute will also provide end-to-end services including career assessment, counseling, job search and placement assistance. "We plan to use state-of-the art social networking and Web 2.0 tools that are as easy to use as Facebook," says Steve Poizner, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who serves as CEO of ECI. Web 2.0 is a set of programs that facilitate online collaboration and learning.

"We want to build an upfront assessment system enriched with video to allow students to collaborate with each other and with experts," Poizner explains.

Next: Other schools may follow. >>

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