CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Fulfill your goals through lifelong learning

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

Whether you've resolved to start climbing the corporate ladder, switch careers or nurture a hobby or interest, returning to school can be the key to fulfilling your goals.

With everything from holistic health and learning to ride a motorcycle to business management and web development, there's something for everybody, reports Debby Kaplan, dean of continuing education and corporate training at Centennial College ( in Toronto.

Certainly, the thought of returning to school can be daunting. "Academic resolutions can sometimes be unnerving," says Kaplan. "Many of our continuing education students haven't been to school for many years. Many have children and want to do well and set a good example ... For many, it's a new Canadian experience."

Many institutions offer continuous intake, accepting students throughout the semester, and host workshops and seminars designed to ease the return to school. Centennial offers "success workshops" to help students in their studies, job search and careers. Topics include effective note taking, essay writing, public speaking, building team spirit and creating a career portfolio.

Continuing education calendars are filled with both credit and non-credit (general interest) courses, including college and university preparation courses and more advanced levels of study in the arts, technology and sciences.

Getting off on the right foot will help ensure your success. "Begin with something you're comfortable and familiar with," says Liesje de Burger, manager of continuing education at Durham College ( in Oshawa. "Provide yourself with an opportunity to learn without layering the anxieties ... Frequently, people migrate from general interest to credit courses."

For those seeking career advancement or wanting to launch a new career, a certificate can open the door to new opportunities. Durham offers such certificates as American Sign Language, Dispute Resolution, Website Creation and Design, Fire Investigative Sciences and Computer Programming.

"Certificates are a package of courses that complement one another," says de Burger. "They are targeted for the workplace. An employer knows an employee with a certificate has a certain set of credentials."

Many students explore a personal interest through continuous education and turn that interest into a career. Many others recognize the need to regularly upgrade skills.

About 25,000 students register in continuous education courses at Seneca College in Toronto each semester. The college offers more than 100 programs or certificates and a host of general interest courses, including Australian literature and a new Hockey Hall of Fame Presents. English-as-a-second-language courses are among the most popular.

The trend toward lifelong learning continues to grow. "Over the last 10 years, we have seen an increase in demand for continuous education," says Susan Savoie, associate dean of continuous education and training at Toronto's Seneca College (

Employers also support the need for continuous education, reports Savoie. An increasing number are covering the cost of continuous education courses or giving employees time off to take courses.

"In general, the majority of people coming to study part-time already have some college or university background," says Savoie. "About 80% of our continuous education students are taking credit courses. They want to improve themselves in their careers or want to switch careers."

(Linda White ( is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)

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