The saying “when the going gets tough ... the tough get going” resonates in today’s economy like never before.With many young adults facing saturated job markets and large numbers of mature workers out of work, now is the time for professionals to get going.

Higher education can jump-start careers at any stage. In the Tristate area, there are plenty of well-respected business education programs, as well as colleges and universities, with a wealth of options to help professionals succeed.

Jennifer Bush, senior executive director of Xavier University’s MBA programs, says the school’s MBA offerings are experiencing growth as students take advantage of networking and other resources.

“That’s a very smart thing to do,” she says. “Universities develop ties with businesses. The Xavier network is strong, and it’s recognized regionally and nationally. That’s a great benefit. “

And, when it comes to a tight job market, Xavier is doing its best to give students an edge.

Bush says the MBA programs at Xavier focus on career development as an enhancement to the educational experience. The university offers workshops in career assessment, salary negotiations, résumé writing and interviewing, in conjunction with mentoring programs and opportunities for skill development through nonprofit consulting projects.

“We want to make sure they (students) are prepared upon graduation to enact that job plan right away,” she says.

Administrators and faculty also understand the importance of flexibility in helping adult students complete their education. In a tight economy, students may be presented with job opportunities they just can’t turn down. And programs are accommodating that.

“We are student-centered here at Xavier, offering students the flexibility, convenience and choices that they’re telling us they need in an MBA program,” Bush notes. “What they’re finding here at Xavier is a personalized approach to education that will meet their needs and benefit them while they’re simultaneously getting their degree from a nationally ranked university.”

For professionals contemplating a new professional direction, there are also many local choices.

The Workforce Development Center at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College’s Evendale campus provides career training and retraining through a variety of for-credit, certificate and non-credit courses. Dennis Ulrich, the executive director of the WDC, says the center’s enrollment is up about 25 percent from last year.

In a turbulent economy, adult education and training can help people of all ages and skills see the potential in new fields and give them hope when jobs are lost.

“On the one hand, it’s very difficult financially, but on the other hand, we’re here for them with different kinds of certificate programs and associate degrees to help them re-engineer their careers,” Ulrich says.

More and more people are interested in green technology careers and, luckily for them, there’s an abundance of federal and state funding available for such careers in this area.

According to Ulrich, Cincinnati State is emerging as a leader in green technology education. The WDC designed a Photovoltaic Installer program, which can add a “green credential” to existing skills for electricians or related trades. After completing this training program, attendees sit for an examination to receive a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Photovoltaic Installer certification. The NABCEP certification is a national standard.

Now in its second session, the PV installer class enrollment is at capacity. With bills to pay and families to support, adult students may feel overwhelmed by the cost and time of pursuing further education.

Ulrich encourages those thinking of returning to school to research funding available from a range of sources, including their local Workforce Investment Boards to see if there is money available to assist with tuition or program fees.

“It’s hard for people because they have bills to pay, too, but there truly are viable options available for them,” he says.

Another way local institutions help students is with the time factor.

Tina Lapp, president of real estate, insurance and financial services for Hondros College, says the school offers courses with flexible schedules that allow students to get their classes completed quickly.

“At Hondros College, an individual can complete their education in an accelerated format so that they can get out there and start earning a living again,” says Lapp, who oversees all of Hondros College’s certificate programs.

The school offers education in a broad range of careers, including real estate, appraisal, home inspection, mortgage, insurance, financial services and nursing in seven classroom settings across Ohio. According to Lapp, some certification programs can be completed in one week.

“We’re very focused, very accelerated and very flexible,” she says.

As Ulrich points out, there is much to be gained from investing in adult education and training programs.

“Despite these difficult obstacles, when the economy turns around, people who can make the sacrifice and commit to new learning will be well-positioned to find gainful employment.”

Some other programs enhance the jobs their students already hold. Northern Kentucky University has a program called the Master of Science in Executive Leadership and Organizational Change (ELOC), which requires students to have either full-time professional or managerial experience.

Each year, it accepts just 25 people, who will learn and work together as a team through the program. ELOC director Kenneth Rhee says the students are very supportive of each other, since they are all non-traditional students juggling school, work and families.

“Sometimes people are hesitant to go back to school. Our non-traditional focus is helpful for them to adjust,” Rhee comments. “There is a support system within the program. They are not alone.”

ELOC focuses on teaching useful information that students can bring back to their occupations. Rhee often hears students say how their co-workers are surprised by how many skills they learn and bring back to work.

This comes about from an emphasis on teamwork and hands-on learning. Students are placed in groups that they will work with for an entire year, and then they switch groups for the second year of the program. This helps them to be team players, but also challenges them to adapt to new group situations.

“This is not a program where you sit back and listen to a professor lecture,” Rhee says.

The ELOC curriculum also includes courses in conflict management, field research, international experience and many others. All are easily applied to real world professions.

In addition to business programs, law schools can also be beneficial to adults who wish to continue their educations. Northern Kentucky University’s Salmon P. Chase College of Law provides programs and services to assist returning students.

Besides its full-time law program, Chase offers a part-time evening program to cater to the needs of non-traditional students. Evening students have the same professors and coursework as the other law students, but the hours allow them to keep their regular jobs and spend time with families. Typically, the program takes four years to complete.

Molly T. Tami, the associate dean for student affairs and admissions, says the flexible schedule can be very beneficial to non-traditional students.

“The students are usually older, and have a career they want to further,” she comments. “We have a part-time evening program three nights a week, summer courses and online classes to help them balance their schedules.”

Besides actually being in classrooms, students at Chase also get hands-on experience in the field of law. They are required to get practical training in negotiation and counseling clients, and are encouraged to pursue externships.

Chase students must also complete 50 hours of pro bono service prior to graduation. This can include a broad range of work, such as case preparations, community legal education, client intake, writing and research and legislative or policy analysis.

After graduation, Tami says students go on to many different paths. “We have graduates working in business, education, government jobs, healthcare, and many other fields,” she states.