Brosnan, Franco, Gandolfini Back CAA and Sherry Lansing Education Startup (Exclusive)

Empowered UCLA Extension will offer scholarships in the name of "celebrity messengers" like Sally Field, George Lopez and Geena Davis

Last Updated: July 20, 2012 @ 9:00 AM

Empowered Careers, the new adult education startup backed by former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing's foundation and the Creative Artists Agency, is getting some big-name celebrity endorsements. 

Pierce Brosnan, Geena Davis, Sally Field, James Franco, James Gandolfini, Cuba Gooding, Jr., George Lopez and Rita Wilson have all signed on to help talk up the program to prospective applicants in a new advertisement for Empowered's UCLA extension classes. 

In the spot, which will first play on the web and eventually on television, the actors urge viewers to believe in and reinvent themselves by enrolling in the continuing education program geared at baby boomers looking for a career change. 

Also read: Hollywood Talent Agencies Place Bets on Digital as Film and TV Falter

The company, which boasts $15 million in seed funding, begins offering classes this September. In a digital-age twist, students take their classes online via iPads. 

"We really believe that we are are not just creating a company, we are creating a social movement," Michael Yanover, head of business development at CAA, told TheWrap. "So we were looking for spokespeople who can make that message clear and for important voices who believe that this is a cause."

The actors are not making money for their appearances. In return for their involvement, the actors' names will be affixed to some $2 million in scholarships that Empowered plans to give to incoming students. 

The program costs $9,800 annually, a price that Empowered co-founder and CEO Steve Poizner acknowledges might be tough to shoulder for people hit hard by the economic downturn. To alleviate those pressures, he said the company, which is a for-profit enterprise, has set aside assistance for 20 percent of its students.

"We've come into contact with a lot of people who are perfectly qualified, who are perfectly motivated, but they don't have the means to go forward with our program," Poizner said. "So we're in the process of awarding grants. We're proud of our scholarship program."

Also read: 'You Can Change Lives': Sherry Lansing on the Power of Giving Back

Poizner said that making the program available to the broadest possible group is essential because there is a huge "skills gap" when it comes to Americans between the ages of 45 to 65. He said that they are either stalled out in their career or out of work, but often without the financial wherewithal to retire. 

"It's the No. 1 issue in the  country right now — you have this huge percentage of people who need to get a job or switch careers," he said. "We're launching a movement to help empower people to take control of their lives and career." 

To that end, Empowered UCLA Extension is offering 12-month certificate programs in the likes of nonprofit management, information and technology management, marketing and healthcare. 

But not the movie or television business. That's something Yanover says could change as Empowered picks up steam.

"We're starting off with group of curriculums that are manageable for a startup, but we expect that it will grow into all sorts of areas including the entertainment business," Yanover said. 

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