In 2007, Westchester Community College (WCC) in Valhalla, New York, initiated a small business training program for individuals age fifty and over. A grant from the Coleman Foundation supported elements of the program as well as the development of a "best practices" guide which outlines the approach taken to establish this effort.
WCC collaborated with the Women's Enterprise Development Center (WEDC) to develop the program and it was offered four times between the Spring of 2007 and Fall of 2008. WEDC's curriculm was modified to address specific needs of the targeted population. Mainstream, the Institute for Mature Adults at WCC hosted the program.
- A total of 29 students participated in the four sessions
- The design of the program was effectively modified in response to the needs of the targeted audience
- A training guide was developed to aid in replication and communication of best practices. See the attached guide (Download Best Practices Manual Draft 12-22-08) and appendicies (Download Best Practices manual Appendices-Final 12-08) which contain helpful insights.
Key Lessons Learned: Student Recruitment Can Be a Challenge
Student recruitment was the most challenging portion of the program. Special efforts were necessary, including the formation of an advisory committee with connections into the target population. Multiple marketing vehicles and approaches were required to reach and attract program participants.
Key Lesson Learned: Programs Must be Designed to Meet Unique Needs of Mature Adults
WCC's first offering has held once a week for 15 weeks. Feedback indicated that students wanted to meet more frequently to maintain the momentum of class discussions as well as to more quickly prepare students for career transitions to self-employment. Future sessions met twice weekly for eight weeks, shorter in length than typical programs.