Reasons for adults' participation in work-related courses, 2002-03.
Research suggests that there has been an increased demand for work-related adult education, resulting from changes in the labor market, technology, and management practices. These changes have placed new demands on workers, who increasingly are expected to assume multiple responsibilities, handle changing procedures, and use a broad base of knowledge on the job (U.S. Department of Commerce et al. 1999). During the 1990s there was an upward trend in participation rates in adult education programs overall, and among most subgroups identified by age, sex, race/ethnicity, educational attainment, and income (Creighton and Hudson 2002). While previous research has examined trends in participation rates, additional information about reasons for participation is needed to understand why adults take formal work-related courses. Such courses may help adults to respond to labor market demands, fulfill their own desires to learn and improve their skills, or satisfy employers' requirements (for example, for certification or skill development).
The data on reasons for participation in formal, work-related courses discussed in this Issue Brief come from the Adult Education for Work-Related Reasons Survey (AEWR) of the 2003 National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES). NHES is a random-digit-dial telephone survey, and the sample chosen for the AEWR is representative of civilian, noninstitutionalized adults age 16 and older in the United States who were not enrolled in 12th grade or below at the time of the survey. Between January and April of 2003, interviews were conducted with 12,725 adults, (1) who provided information about their educational activities during the previous 12 months. The formal work-related courses that respondents described in the survey had an instructor and were reported as related to a job or career, whether or not the adult learner was employed while taking the course. Such courses included classes taken at colleges or universities that were not part of a degree program, (2) as well as seminars, training sessions, or workshops offered by various providers including businesses, unions, and government agencies, among others. Courses categorized as work-related education could pertain to any topic so long as the adult learner considered the courses to have been taken for work-related reasons. Excluded from this type of adult education are basic skills or GED classes, as well as courses that participants took in pursuit of a degree or diploma or as part of an apprenticeship leading to journeyman status.
All respondents who had taken formal work-related courses, regardless of employment status, were asked whether they had done so for any of a series of selected reasons: to maintain or improve skills or knowledge they already had; to learn completely new skills or knowledge; to help change their job or career field, enter the workforce, or start their own business; and to get or keep a state or industry certificate or license. In addition, participants who had been employed at some time in the previous 12 months, excluding those who were self-employed and had no other employer, were asked whether they had taken work-related courses to receive a promotion or pay raise or because their employers had required or recommended participation.
As shown in table 1, the maintenance or improvement of skills or knowledge was the most frequently mentioned reason for taking formal work-related courses. Almost all adult participants (92 percent) indicated that they sought to maintain or improve skills or knowledge that they already had, and a majority (77 percent) also sought to learn completely new skills or knowledge. One-third took courses to get or keep a certificate or license, (3) and about one-fifth took courses to help change their job or career field, enter the workforce, or start their own business.
About 94 percent of work-related course participants were employed sometime during the period from early 2002 to early 2003 (not shown in table). (4) Among these employed participants, about three-fourths took a course because their employer required or recommended that they take it, while 18 percent took a course to receive a promotion or a pay raise.
Reasons for participation varied by characteristics such as age, educational attainment, employment status, and income. The youngest participants were most likely to take classes to learn new skills or knowledge, compared to older participants. In contrast, they were less likely than those in the three middle age categories to be taking classes to maintain skills or knowledge they already had or to get or keep a certificate or license. Coursetaking to help change or get a job or start one's own business declined with age. Among employed participants, coursetaking to receive a promotion or pay raise also declined with age. Additionally, it was more common for employed participants ages 16 to 40 to take courses because of an employer's requirement or recommendation than for those over age 65 to do so.
Among participants, women were more likely than men to report taking formal work-related courses to learn completely new skills or knowledge (80 percent vs. 73 percent, respectively).
Among all participants, Whites were less likely than Blacks or Hispanics to take a course to learn new skills or knowledge or to help change their job or career field. Among employed participants, Whites (16 percent) were less likely than Blacks or Hispanics (26 percent each) to take courses to receive a promotion or a pay raise.
Reasons for coursetaking also varied by the course taker's level of education. The percentage of participants who reported taking courses to maintain or improve existing skills or knowledge increased with educational attainment, from 78 percent among high school dropouts to 96 percent among those with a graduate or professional degree. Other reasons for participation were cited less frequently by participants with graduate or professional degrees. For example, course takers with a graduate or professional degree were the least likely to take courses to help get or change a job (11 percent), while participants with less than a high school diploma were most likely to report this reason (41 percent). Among employed participants, the most highly educated workers were less likely than those with less than a bachelor's degree to take courses in order to receive a promotion or pay raise (9 percent vs. 21-27 percent).
Reasons for participation also varied by the course taker's employment status. Participants who held a job at some time in the 12 months prior to the survey were more likely (93 percent) than those who were not employed (83 percent) to take courses to maintain or improve existing skills or knowledge, while employed participants were about half as likely (18 percent) as those not employed (38 percent) to take courses to help get or change a job, enter the workforce, or start a business.
Among participants who were employed in the 12 months prior to the survey, there were some differences in reasons for coursetaking by occupational group (classified as professional/managerial, sales/service/clerical, or trades and labor). Across the three occupational groups, most participants took work-related courses to maintain or improve skills or knowledge they already had. However, participants in professional or managerial jobs were the least likely to take courses in order to get or change a job (12 percent), because their employers required or recommended participation (73 percent), or to receive a promotion or pay raise (13 percent), compared to participants in other occupations. Additionally, participants working in sales/service/clerical occupations were less likely than participants in other types of occupations to report taking formal work-related courses to get or keep a certificate or license.
Household income was associated with differences in reasons for course participation. Participants in higher income households were more likely than those in lower income households to take courses to maintain skills or knowledge they already had. Conversely, participants in higher income households were less likely than those in lower income households to take courses to learn completely new skills or knowledge or to take courses to get or change a job. Among employed participants, those with lower household incomes were more likely than those with higher household incomes to take a course in pursuit of a promotion or pay raise.
More than 90 percent of adults who took formal work-related courses in 2002-03 reported doing so in order to maintain or improve skills or knowledge they already had, while fewer than 20 percent took such courses to get or change a job or career field. Among employed adults, the majority took courses because their employer required or recommended participation, while about a fifth did so in order to get a promotion or pay raise.
The likelihood of taking classes for the selected reasons examined in this brief generally varied by participants' age, education, employment status, occupation, and household income. A few differences also were found between participants of different races/ethnicities and between men and women. Participants who were older, the most highly educated, employed, or living in higher income households were more likely to say they took work-related courses to maintain or improve the skills they already had and less likely to report doing so in order to get or change a job. Among employed course takers, participation to fulfill an employer's requirement or recommendation, or to get a promotion or pay raise, was less common among the oldest, most highly educated, and professional/managerial workers.
Creighton, S., and Hudson, L. (2002). Participation Trends and Patterns in Adult Education: 1991-1999 (NCES 2002-119). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
Hagedorn, M., Montaquila, J., Vaden-Kiernan, N., Kim, K., and Chapman, C. (2004). National Household Education Surveys of 2003: Data File User's Manual, Volume I (NCES 2004-101). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
O'Donnell, K. (2005). Tabular Summary of Adult Education for Work-Related Reasons: 2002-2003 (NCES 2005-044). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. U.S. Departments of Commerce, Education, and Labor, the National Institute for Literacy, and the Small Business Administration. (1999). 21st Century Skills for 21st Century Jobs. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
(1) The weighted sample represents approximately 206.5 million civilian, noninstitutionalized adults age 16 or older and not enrolled in 12th grade or below. The overall response rate for the 2003 AEWR, which is the product of the response rate for a screener questionnaire and the response rate for the AEWR interview, is 52.1 percent. For further detail about the NHES survey methodology and response rates, see Hagedorn et al. (2004).
(2) Enrollment in college/university degree programs is ascertained separately from enrollment in work-related courses that are not taken in pursuit of a formal degree. Therefore, estimates included here do not include adults enrolled in programs in pursuit of a college or university degree.
(3) Examples of such certificates or licenses include teaching certificates; licenses for physicians, nurses, and cosmetologists; commercial driver's licenses; and industry certifications such as A+ certification for computer technicians.
(4) In this report, adults referred to as employed are those who had worked at some time in the previous 12 months. These adults were not necessarily employed either at the time they took the course or on the date the interview was conducted. Additionally, respondents who were self-employed and had no other employer are not included in the group of employed participants, because they were not asked reasons for participation having to do with an employer.
Data source: The Adult Education for Work-Related Reasons Survey of the 2003 National Household Education Surveys Program.
Author affiliations: M. DeBell, Education Statistics Services Institute; G. Mulligan, NCES.
For questions about content, contact Gail Mulligan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
To obtain this Issue Brief (NCES 2005-088), call the toll-free ED Pubs number (877-433-7827) or visit the NCES Electronic Catalog (http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch).
Table 1. Percentage of adult participants who gave selected reasons for participation in work-related courses, by adult characteristics: 2002-03 Reasons for participation To maintain To learn Number of or improve completely adults skills or new skills Characteristic (thousands) knowledge or knowledge Total 68,499 92 77 Age 16 to 30 years 16,781 88 84 31 to 40 years 16,429 94 77 41 to 50 years 19,304 93 74 51 to 65 years 14,012 95 70 66 years or older 1,973 84 75 Sex Male 32,458 93 73 Female 36,041 92 80 Race/ethnicity White, non-Hispanic 51,552 92 75 Black, non-Hispanic 7,245 93 85 Hispanic 6,150 91 83 Asian or Pacific Islander, 2,414 90 66 non-Hispanic Other race, 1,139 90 76 non-Hispanic Highest education level completed Less than a high school 2,972 78 82 diploma/equivalent High school diploma/ 14,268 89 78 equivalent Some college/vocational/ 21,183 92 79 associate's degree Bachelor's degree 18,740 94 74 Graduate or 11,336 96 72 professional degree Employment and occupation Employed in last 64,559 93 76 12 months Professional/managerial 29,207 96 75 Sales/service/clerical 26,433 91 79 Trades and labor 8,919 87 75 Not employed in 3,940 83 78 last 12 months Household income $20,000 or less 5,099 82 84 $20,001 to $35,000 8,921 89 78 $35,001 to $50,000 10,574 92 82 $50,001 to $75,000 17,351 93 78 $75,001 or more 26,553 95 71 Reasons for participation All adult participants To help change job To get or keep or career certificate Characteristic field (1) or license (2) Total 19 33 Age 16 to 30 years 29 27 31 to 40 years 18 37 41 to 50 years 16 34 51 to 65 years 13 35 66 years or older 7 35 Sex Male 17 35 Female 20 32 Race/ethnicity White, non-Hispanic 16 34 Black, non-Hispanic 28 39 Hispanic 30 28 Asian or Pacific Islander, 24 26 non-Hispanic Other race, 19 31 non-Hispanic Highest education level completed Less than a high school 41 25 diploma/equivalent High school diploma/ 22 34 equivalent Some college/vocational/ 20 33 associate's degree Bachelor's degree 16 32 Graduate or 11 36 professional degree Employment and occupation Employed in last 18 33 12 months Professional/managerial 12 35 Sales/service/clerical 23 30 Trades and labor 19 37 Not employed in 38 34 last 12 months Household income $20,000 or less 42 33 $20,001 to $35,000 26 37 $35,001 to $50,000 21 36 $50,001 to $75,000 17 32 $75,001 or more 12 32 Employed adult participants (3) Because employer To receive a required or promotion or Characteristic recommended it pay raise Total 76 18 Age 16 to 30 years 79 26 31 to 40 years 79 18 41 to 50 years 74 14 51 to 65 years 74 13 66 years or older 68 11 Sex Male 77 19 Female 76 17 Race/ethnicity White, non-Hispanic 76 16 Black, non-Hispanic 75 26 Hispanic 78 26 Asian or Pacific Islander, 72 19 non-Hispanic Other race, 80 23 non-Hispanic Highest education level completed Less than a high school 75 22 diploma/equivalent High school diploma/ 77 27 equivalent Some college/vocational/ 79 21 associate's degree Bachelor's degree 77 13 Graduate or 69 9 professional degree Employment and occupation Employed in last 76 18 12 months Professional/managerial 73 13 Sales/service/clerical 78 22 Trades and labor 83 21 Not employed in ([dagger]) ([dagger]) last 12 months Household income $20,000 or less 70 27 $20,001 to $35,000 81 24 $35,001 to $50,000 77 19 $50,001 to $75,000 79 18 $75,001 or more 74 14 ([dagger]) Not applicable. (1) Full text as worded in the survey: "To help you change your job or career field, enter the workforce, or start your own business." (2) Full text as worded in the survey: "To get or keep a state or industry certificate or license." (3) These items were asked only of adults who reported having worked in the past 12 months and who were not only self-employed. NOTE: Formal work-related courses include any training, courses, or classes that had an instructor and were related to a job or career, whether or not the respondent had a job when he or she took them. Excluded from this type of adult education are basic skills or GED classes, as well as courses that participants took in pursuit of a formal postsecondary credential or as part of an apprenticeship program. Information was collected on up to four work-related courses or trainings taken in the previous 12 months and reported as work-related. If an adult took more than four courses, four were sampled for data collection. Detail may not sum to totals due to rounding. Standard errors for this table are available at http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2005/2005088_se.pdf. SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Adult Education for Work-Related Reasons Survey of the 2003 National Household Education Surveys Program.