Lifelong education and learning… what do we mean by that? Well, just what it says! Education that continues throughout your life.
As opposed to mandatory education like at school, lifelong learning is self-motivated and continuous. It’s for those who are always upskilling and looking to develop professionally. It’s for the ambitious go-getters who love a challenge.
As of 2019, an EU Labour Force study shows that only 11% of adults take part in lifelong learning. Which means nearly 90% of adults are missing out on the positive impact of lifelong education.
Why is lifelong learning important?
It depends on who you ask!
According to a government evidence review, “For the UK economy to sustain productivity levels, a highly skilled workforce that can innovate and adapt to change is needed.”
Hmm…what does that mean? Basically, we’re living in a time where change is constant. Technology is advancing almost faster than the world can keep up, and this is made worse by constant political changes, policy updates, and industry innovations. For the UK to stay competitive in a global economy, our workforce can’t stop learning after they’ve got their qualifications. We all need to be lifelong learners.
However, if you ask Brooks and Kirk, it’s about much more than satisfying the workforce’s needs. It’s also about personal career development, self-confidence, and enjoyment. The fact is, if you can adapt to the changing landscape of your workplace, you’re making yourself an indispensable member of the team.
The threat of rejecting lifelong learning
Ok, we don’t want to sound too drastic! There are labour laws and equality policies, so nobody is going to be kicked out for not being a computer wizard at the age of 92.
That being said, with how quickly industries develop in the modern age, younger employees with the most current skills are very desirable to employers. However, a current employee who gains those skills is even more valuable. After all, it costs a lot more to take on and train a new employee than to retain an existing one.
There is a threat of being overlooked or undervalued if you fall behind the current trends of your industry or the skills being brought in by new employees. However, if you’re always learning, you’ll only become more and more valuable.
Methods of lifelong learning
There are so many ways to keep learning after you’ve left school or university.
- Continuing Professional Development (CPD) – These are courses and workshops working adults take part in to keep their current skills sharp or learn new ones.
- The wondrous world of FE – Further Education is not limited by one course or one learning institution. Further Education can be a lifelong pursuit. There are eight NVQ levels; you can climb through the levels as your career progresses.
- Self-guided study – Download Duolingo. Watch some YouTube videos. Grow your home library! The lifelong learner can learn anywhere and uses their free time to learn something new or grow their current skills.
- Attending tradeshows, workshops, and guest speaker events – Websites like Eventbrite can help you find all kinds of relevant events that are often free to attend. We’re up for anything if our employer is paying us to enjoy a change of scene and a free lunch!
- Take advantage of employer–funded training – Many employers will invest in upskilling their employees. Take advantage! It will look great on your CV and give you more leverage in the current role.
The positive impacts of lifelong learning
Enough doom and gloom! The fact is lifelong learning is an overwhelmingly positive thing. And here’s why:
- A sense of fulfilment – That same evidence review we quoted earlier found that lifelong learners felt “reinvigorated, more willing to remain in the labour market and to want to engage in further learning”.
- Creating your own opportunities for recognition – As an employee who is regularly upskilling, you’re providing your employer with the skills they need. That means you’re more valuable and more likely to get a well-deserved promotion or position of greater responsibility. Perhaps you can even use your newfound skills to negotiate a raise?
- Transferability of new skills – New skills don’t just apply to your work life. When you learn new things, they can apply to all areas of your life. Just think of the workplace technophobe who loves their Alexa at home!
- Guide your career path – Lifelong learning can prevent your role from becoming static and too dull. If you’ve got a love for digital technologies, upskill! You can then bring those skills to the workplace and bring a little of what you love into your working day.
To conclude, lifelong learning is fast becoming a necessity. Younger generations, in particular, are expected to upskill throughout their careers. If they didn’t, they’d soon find the skillset they had at nineteen is outdated by twenty-five.
But lifelong learning doesn’t have to be a chore. With new skills come the opportunity for change, growth and career development. You can take control of your learning and build the career you want, a little at a time.