College Spotlight

Program Marketing Campaigns to Fill Local Labor Market Gaps 

September 14, 2023

Achieving the Dream

Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) is a mid-size urban college in Wilmington, North Carolina. Over the 2021–2023 academic years, the college developed a comprehensive marketing campaign to increase enrollment in high-demand, high-wage certificate programs. They focused first on their Truck Driver Training program in response to high demand in the region. Approximately 90% of the graduates are employed immediately upon completion at an annual starting salary of $60,000–$65,0000. The Truck Driver Training program offers a hands-on approach. Students get behind the wheel and learn in real time.

Spotlight Feature

CFCC has also worked to reduce tuition costs and simplified the registration process for this program. A checklist infographic combined with a behavioral design text message campaign has simplified the enrollment process for learners. Partnerships with local community members and organizations, such as Step Up Wilmington and NC Works Career Center, help with referrals to the program. The college made some internal changes to enable them to reduce the price of the program and scholarships are available to support child care and transportation costs, which help lower financial barriers for adult learners attending classes.

Lessons Learned

  • Even seemingly small fees or challenges in the application and enrollment process can discourage an adult learner from signing up for a program.
  • Using lessons from behavioral psychology to design marketing efforts and enrollment processes can remove obstacles to enrollment.
  • Adult learners have busy schedules, and frequent communications via email and text can help them keep up with their programs.
  • Marketing the Truck Driver Program on the sides of trucks being driven around their local area helped bring the marketing campaign to life and attract more attention.
  • Adult learners interested in certificates like truck driving are often looking for a career change so they need to know they can reskill quickly at a low cost, and that those careers are in-demand locally.

Implementation Tips

Solutions May Be Simple

CFCC’s infographic detailing the steps and timeline for the enrollment process in a high-level visual format helped clarify what was expected of applicants early on.

Timely Reminders Keep the Process Moving

The short text reminders sent at critical points in the enrollment process helped keep the process smooth and reduce the burden on the student to remember the steps on their own.

Flexibility Is Key for Adult Learners

Adult learners’ lives are busy: Colleges will benefit by ensuring the wait time to get their questions answered is as short as possible.

Scale the Learning

Document the lessons learned from program-specific marketing campaigns and identify some prompting questions/considerations that could help the college apply those lessons to other programs.



Enrollment increase from the 2019–20 academic year (58 unduplicated enrolled students) to the 2020-21 academic year (282, with 56% being minorities)

Next Steps

  1. Continue the work to apply behavioral design lessons to other programs’ marketing strategies and enrollment processes.
  2. Engage more staff in discussions about how to connect more intentionally with adult learners to surface new marketing and outreach ideas.