By Leo Miller, Regional Administrator, USDOL/ETA

I have done presentations for work relating to Adult training aversion.  It is a real phenomenon and it impacts adults exploring training in every way.  I know this from my work, but, I also have to share, I am also an Adult that has experienced it.  I will start by saying I have a Master’s Degree and I have worked in workforce development for  25 years. I think I have a pretty solid fluency in training, training costs, training providers and supportive services.  I also understand “participants”, “cohorts” and “class size”. 


This, however, did not prepare me for actually identifying, registering for, and taking training for myself.  My first goal was to find the information I needed to make my decision.  The web is filled with a wide variety of information that differs depending on the source.  I researched many different college programs on line.   As I went through oceans of web-text, I found a lot pictures, testimonials, and interesting graphics, but it was more difficult for me to find the information that I really wanted: cost and scheduling. I was not going to live on campus so stately buildings and grassy hills really were not a major factor for me.  Most providers I researched did not have up to date schedule information that I could use to fit the training into my life.  In most instances I was able to find a phone number, in no instance did anyone that I called return a call to provide me additional information.  (Barrier  One:  Easy Access to Information).


Since I work full time and have other life commitments, I had to do this research at odd hours and in my own home.  To do this, I had to have access to resources such as computer and internet in my home, as well as the ability to fit the research into a fairly busy schedule that I keep.  I have resources and I was able to find time to do the research, but it was one more thing to fit in an already busy life.  (Barrier Two:  Access to Resources including Time)


I am not married and have no children.   So barriers related to childcare didn’t apply to my training decision, but having no car did.  My training decision would be based on public transportation schedules and out of pocket travel expenses.  (Barrier Three: supportive services and transportation).


Unexpectedly, however, these barriers were not the insurmountable ones for me.  The major barrier for me was not information, life commitments, resources and transportation.  The barrier that ended by training pursuit, was the recognition that all of the students in all of those pictures on line and in on brochures, did not look like me.  They were young, and they looked carefree as they smiled and strolled on manicured campuses.  This fed, what for many of us is the biggest fear, the fear of being the old one.  The fear of being different and the fear of not fitting in or failing.


I never went back to school, but in an odd way, this experience made me smarter and better at my job.   The thought process for adult learners to engage in training couldn’t be more different than that of recent high school grads.  As providers, ignore these realities at your own peril.