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Learning is for life, not just for lockdown

Over the last three months, we’ve become bakers, gardeners and runners (or walkers!) as well as temporary teachers. We’ve explored our side hustles, considered our career paths and taken up learning.

We’re all now learning for fun; but we’re also learning for our careers.

I was intrigued to read that for UK users Welsh is now a more popular language to learn than Chinese. One online language platform reported 1.3 million people learning worldwide after thousands of new users signed up for free classes during lockdown. According to Ucas, the number of mature students at universities in the UK has been rising, and the biggest increase this year was seen among those aged 35 and over.

This pandemic has undoubtedly proven to be a spur, but in truth the increase in both informal and career-focused learning is indicative of a longer-term trend.

We’re living longer and we’re expecting to have to work for longer. People are becoming more likely to reflect on what they want from their working lives as technology and automation changes the workplace. We’re living in unpredictable economic and political times.

The implications are significant.

According to research from BritainThinks and Investec, 71% of people believe there is no longer such a thing as a job for life. One career is no longer enough; a strongly held prediction is that the members of the future working population are likely to experience up to 5 careers – not jobs mind you – careers!!!  Many of us are curious about other options and are perpetual self-improvers. We expect to have multiple jobs and want multiple careers.

With an increasing focus on learning for life and work, we’re becoming more prepared to invest our own time and money in upskilling and retraining, and as a result career-focused pathways and work-based learning take on increased significance.

Employers need to keep up and they to evolve. Not only do they need to adapt to technological advances, developing their employees for the workplaces of the future, they need to respond to changing employee expectations. Clearly in these rapidly evolving times, employers will need to consider both short-term and longer-term capability building which has a demonstrable link to business outcomes. Many companies recognise the scale of the change needed and are committed to upskilling and retraining their people. Critically they also need to understand what is and isn’t their responsibility.

I believe employers will need to shift the dial on enabling learning cultures, ensuring they have the right tools and structures in place to support their employees. Learning and development will need to dovetail with recruitment and retention strategies.

Increasingly employees expect to be able to tap into training when, where and how they want; seeking training that supports their personal development and career goals as well as organisational priorities.

One thing for certain is that larger employers will need to lead the way, and will equally need better, more flexible learning eco-systems to support this.

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