When I was in school, we believed that if we could graduate from high school with grades to get us into college, we would earn a four-year degree and be set for life.

No one ever talked to me about the very real need for continuing my education and training throughout my adult life, nor did anyone predict the incredible changes we would see in the workforce during my lifetime.

The idea that young people will earn a high school diploma, figure out what the next and last step in education is and then be "done" now is an antiquated concept.

In workforce-development realms, like at Tolles Career & Technical Center in Plain City, we no longer talk about the "career ladder." Now we talk more about a "lattice," both education and training that zigzag in a variety of directions to allow for personal growth in a rapidly changing work environment.

A Forbes article from Aug. 14, 2012, "The Future Of Work: Job Hopping Is the 'New Normal' for Millennials," reports millennials would change jobs 15 to 20 times over the course of their careers.

That isn't climbing 15 to 20 rungs of the same ladder. These figures represent changes in career fields and the types of training/education required to make the jump.

"Lifelong learning" is a phrase we like to use in education circles. Somehow it speaks to the nobility of what we do as educators.

We help prepare people to become lifelong learners. Sounds romantic, doesn't it?

But maybe unlike any time we have known, the idea of lifelong learning isn't a luxury. Today, it is a necessity.

High schools all over the country are rethinking the student experience. Colleges and universities are revamping how they offer curriculum. And adult education and training of all kinds now are critical components to workforce development.

People must have a variety of avenues to enter the workforce, then re-enter and then re-enter again.

Tolles provides an avenue to success for people of all ages, with 21 high school-age programs on our Career Campus in Plain City and programs in the Dublin and Hilliard school districts.

School-age programs offered by Tolles include the subjects of business, information technology, health professions, broadcast-video production and teaching.

Likewise, adult-education options range from emergency-medical-technician training and firefighting to industrial maintenance, welding and automotive technologies on the Career Campus in Plain City and brand new courses being offered at the Hilliard Innovation Campus to expand the education lattice available to adults.

Without embarking on a college degree, adults can gain bankable skills for advancement in the workforce.

Two new courses being offered are Phlebotomy and CompTIA A+ Hardware.

In Phlebotomy, participants will learn the techniques, skills and equipment used for the purposes of safe and effective blood collection. Following successful completion of all course requirements, students will be able to sit for the National Certified Phlebotomy Technician exam offered through the National Center for Competency Testing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the job outlook for phlebotomists is increasing 25 percent, which is an above-average growth rate.

Likewise, CompTIA A+ Hardware courses are being offered at the Hilliard Innovation Campus. In partnership with the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County, known as C-TEC, participants can prepare to become a CompTIA A+ certified technician.

In these two courses, students will develop competency with PC hardware and peripherals, mobile device hardware, networking and troubleshooting hardware, network-connectivity issues and installing and configuring operating systems.

Students who satisfactorily complete courses will be able to sit for the CompTIA 220-1001 and 220-1002 certification exams. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also has cited the IT field to be growing faster than average.

No one-size-fits-all model is available for education and workforce development.

Though a four-year degree can open many doors, it no longer is the only key to a prosperous career path. Adults in the middle of their careers are being faced with this reality. Parents of middle school- and high school-age children are charged with exploring options that they themselves didn't consider when they were in high school.

As such, institutions of learning, such as Tolles, find themselves deconstructing the ladder and building the lattice of lifelong learning.

Where do you find yourself on the lattice? Feel free to contact us at tollestech.com or 614-873-4666.

Emmy Beeson is superintendent of Tolles Career & Technical Center, which includes students from the Dublin and Hilliard school districts. Contact her at ebeeson@ tollestech.com.