What goes on in your head when you are learning? It might seem a tricky question, but you should give it some thought, because understanding learning and a resolve to go on learning are becoming increasingly important in the 21st century job market.


This is because not only unskilled jobs are being lost to machines. Even highly qualified professionals are becoming threatened with obsolescence. Lifelong learning is now an economic imperative as we learn to reinvent ourselves on a regular basis to meet the demands of a rapidly changing work environment.

Indeed, a recent report on learning in The Economist argues that it is the skills that machines are not so good at, such as creativity, empathy and problem-solving, that will give people a better chance of staying in work in the future.

Ironically, all this coincides with a drop in the amount of money companies spend on training, partly because they fear that better-trained personnel will leave. In fact, the opposite holds: good training should lead to lower churn and lower replacement costs.

Lifelong learning brings not just career benefits and higher productivity. For low-skilled adults in particular, there are also big personal pluses in terms of health, and increased self-esteem and self-confidence.

That is why union learning schemes in the UK – a country where 20 per cent of the adult workforce is functionally illiterate – deserve all the support they can get. They bring back into education and training countless workers who dropped out of learning long before they even left school.

In my ideal world of learning, companies pay training levies to provide universal access to Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), nanodegrees and other modern learning opportunities. Individuals have their learning credits topped up regularly throughout their lifetimes; vocational and academic programmes integrate seamlessly. The result is a learning society peopled by more discriminating, creative, curious individuals enriched by the joys of learning.

Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working internationally: steveflind@aol.com.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine Ltd.’

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