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The Growing Trend of Lifelong Learning and the Effect on Businesses

By Stuart Elmslie, CFO and Executive General Manager Corporate Services, Open Universities Australia

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Stuart Elmslie, CFO and Executive General Manager Corporate Services, Open Universities Australia

Across the globe, people are extending the uptake of formal and informal education beyond pre-employment and are choosing to pursue learning opportunities throughout their lives, sometimes even well into their twilight years. This trend towards lifelong learning is taking place across peoples’ personal and professional lives.

For enterprises, it will become increasingly important over the next few years to respond to growing demand for continuous learning opportunities by creating an environment that is conducive to on-going education and development, or companies will risk not attracting or retaining key staff.

The growth of lifelong learning can be attributed to a number of factors, with the most obvious one being the proliferation of access to high speed internet, which has increased accessibility to high quality (and in many cases, free) educational materials via online delivery methods.

Interactive learning solutions, pre-assessment and adaptive technologies that enable personalised learning journeys, as well as the ability to access media rich content across multiple devices have also all worked together to enrich online learning experiences.

Flexibility that enables people to learn at their own pace is also a large contributing factor to why more and more people are picking up courses throughout different stages of their lives. For businesses, this trend of lifelong learning will become a growing priority over the next five years, as more than half of the workforce population will be from the Millennial generation, who are known to have a healthy appetite for continuous self-development.

Worldwide research has shown that the Millennial Generation has greater expectations than any other generation to continuously learn and professionally mature at their place of work. The same research suggests that this is a key way to boost this generation’s motivation at work and is also one of the factors directly linked to how loyal they are to a company

This generation’s empowered approach to their careers creates a greater need for businesses to foster a culture of lifelong learning, in order to provide a stimulating work environment for employees and ultimately retain these individuals.

In the future, organisations that provide opportunities to staff in a manner that feeds into this demand will gain a competitive edge over other companies when recruiting and retaining talent, thereby potentially impacting both top and bottom line results.

As we increasingly become a knowledge based economy, the education and training industries will continue to make advances in the delivery of entertaining, efficient, relevant and engaging content and learning solutions.

Major shifts will occur over the next ten years as a result of evolving education technologies and online learning pedagogies will deliver learning and development experiences beyond what is imaginable today.

Over this period, employees will continue to take more control over their career paths and will have broader skillsets from a variety of disciplines to draw on.Where they may have gaps, access to real-time skills through an expanding bank of resources online will empower employees to instantly source information required for a task in real-time, minimizing the need for them to carry task specific skills or knowledge around with them.

For businesses, a workforce focused on continuous improvement, with a wider knowledge base and greater access to rapid up skilling, will provide better return on investment, increased productivity and improved efficiency.

Provided organisations ensure that they are cultivating an environment that supports professional development, this trend towards lifelong learning will mutually benefit both the individuals and the companies they work for and lead to higher engagement and motivation levels.

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