A report published in April 2019 by the Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision, ‘Tackling Intergenerational Unfairness’, suggests that many young people are not gaining the right skills early in life. In relation to the issue of lifelong learning, it also asserts that when they grow older, people are unable to access the training they need to stay employable in a changing workplace.
This problem is even more concerning given the fact that the UK has an ageing population – and that many of today’s employed are expected to be working into their 70s. The key challenge to arresting this trend is to design an effective system that gives everyone the ability to perpetually learn and be able to keep their skills relevant, throughout their life. Lifelong Learning is the summary description of this system.
Technological development presents one of the key challenges in lifelong learning. With technology developing at pace and a shortage of young people choosing to pursue STEM subjects, how do we remain competitive in the global economic market? And how do we ensure that our ageing workforce keep the skills needed to stay employable?
If workplace satisfaction is one indicator of how employees feel about their lifelong learning prospects, Acas reported back in 2012 that employees are more dissatisfied with their jobs and work-life balance in the UK than in most other European countries. Out of 20 European countries that responded, only 6 were more dissatisfied than the UK, according to statistics reported in the British Social Attitudes survey, led by NatCen Social Research. Similar research made in more recent times has shown that little has changed. If anything, our workforce may have become more unhappy.
So, what steps can be taken to help aid lifelong learning and improve job satisfaction? Lindsey Rix, Managing Director of Savings and Retirement, Aviva UK, is quoted as saying that those aged 45 to 60 represent nearly one-in-three of the company’s UK workforce; but perhaps more pointedly, that this is also the fastest-growing age-group working for them. Aviva launched a mid-life MOT in October 2018, allowing the company to invest in the population’s continued development, enabling them to retain their critical skills and experience.
Lifelong learning is about creating a society where everyone regardless of income or background can enjoy every stage of life with the knowledge and learning they require to adapt to a changing world. Tactics including regular reviews and planning for on-the-job learning present an opportunity to impart important life skills, for the present and the future.
To conclude, then, lifelong learning is a concept that organisations must take seriously to enable our country to thrive in future years.