What is lifelong learning?
Lifelong learning is the concept of pursuing additional education and the development of further skills beyond an individual’s formal or compulsory education.
Lifelong learning is generally voluntary and self-motivated based on a pursuit to learn more, gain new skills or support professional development. Often lifelong learning is based around personal fulfilment or enjoyment.
It is generally regarded that lifelong learning is self-motivated, informal, voluntary and based on personal interests.
Examples of lifelong learning could be anything from learning to play an instrument, taking part in an online skills course of even enrolling on to a re-training scheme.
Why is lifelong learning important?
Lifelong learning is now being viewed as increasingly vital to employers, individuals and to the future growth and development of the further education and skills sector.
Adult skills and a serious commitment to lifelong learning are now being viewed as vital to the meet the skills and workforce needs of the future. With the future of the workplace looking to change dramatically with automation, AI, big data and the growth of entirely new industries, retraining and skill development will be critical to ensure skills needs are met.
For individuals lifelong learning will become increasingly important to ensure competitiveness and the development of employability in the long term. A commitment to learning and professional development is a highly sought-after quality by employers. Adults seeking to grow, either personally or professionally, can stand out in a challenging jobs market and gain an edge over others. In an employment market where skills needs will evolve rapidly in the future, lifelong learning may become integral to continue employment and progression.
The Covid-19 crisis has also demonstrated that lifelong learning has many benefits beyond skill development and employability. During the pandemic there was huge demand for online courses and a large appetite to gain new skills and learn something entirely different. Personal enjoyment, a feeling of achievement and a demand to reduce social isolation are all great benefits for adults wanting to engage in lifelong learning.
For the Further Education and Skills Sector
For the skills sector and further education sectors, this raises major questions around how it will develop and meet this demand in the future. There is certainly a clear demand for adults of all ages to engage in learning and develop new skills. For further education providers it is therefore going to become essential that they are able to offer greater diversity in learning opportunities, more choice, greater accessibility for learners of all ages and a willingness to offer improved flexibility on how courses are delivered. The ability for the sector to match this demand will become central to the growth and development of further education.