The need for lifelong learning has become permanent. It seems that much of our lives is divided into times before COVID, the months during COVID, and predictions of what is to come after COVID. Lifelong learning fits into each of these time-periods. Higher education thought leaders, economists and business leaders, and workers each understand that the world is rapidly changing and that to thrive during the changes it is important to adapt. The best way to adapt is to engage in lifelong learning.
The pandemic has changed the way consumers engage with businesses, and technology has changed the way businesses operate and deliver their services and products. The best way to meet these changes is to help employees adapt. Providing education benefits for employees ensures that they have the opportunity to learn technical skills necessary for advanced technology. And education provides the opportunity for employees to learn the soft skills such as communication, teamwork and problem solving. Employees that engage in lifelong learning are employees that are committed to improvement. They want to learn the skills new practices will demand. These employees will keep businesses on a path to success during the current economic crisis. “There’s strong evidence that employees who take advantage of education benefits outperform their peers,” said Taylor Chapman, principal at SEI Ventures, a financial investment company. “In fact, results from LinkedIn’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report show that talent developers, executives and people managers agree that providing resources to enable talent is crucial to the business. There is a consensus that learning and development programs are a necessary benefit to employees.”
If learning and development programs are a necessary benefit for employees, they are also a necessary investment for employers. In spite of the COVID-caused economic crisis and recession, an investment in employee development will help businesses come through this crisis and be prepared for post-pandemic success. And many employees recognize they need to upgrade their skills. A recent Strada Education Network survey shows that 35 percent of people who have lost jobs or hours due to the pandemic say they need more skills to get a similar job. An additional 34 percent of people say they need additional skills to be able to change to a new career. Employees recognize the need to seek skills so they are prepared to adapt to their changing jobs or fill new needs that arise for employers. Acquiring these skills isn’t a one-and-done event. Lifelong learning, offered by employer tuition assistance is what will ensure employee preparedness and fill employer talent needs.
Employers need employees that have what labor analyst firm Emsi calls “resilient skills: skills that have either remained or increased in demand despite the economic shutdown and the fastest recession in U.S. recorded history.” These resilient skills help people survive in an environment that is changing and unpredictable. Resilient skills apply across all fields and help people adapt to changes and challenges. Emsi lists six resilient human skills, the skills that are most in demand based on job postings. Communications is the highest requested skill. Other resilient human skills include management, leadership, problem solving, teamwork and critical thinking. Across all industries, 84 percent of job postings list at least one of these skills and 30 percent list two or more.
Lifelong learning can also help employees develop resilient technical skills. The Emsi report breaks resilient technical skills into two categories: tech skills that develop new products and core business skills that help businesses operate and market their products. It is no secret that technology has changed everything. Employees in technology jobs need to lifelong learning in areas such as programming languages, software development and analytics. Without growth and change in these areas, businesses cannot survive. They cannot develop new products and services customers want. Without lifelong learning that develops skills such as marketing, finance and operations, businesses cannot serve their customers.
Many higher education institutions recognize the need for employees to have access to lifelong learning. They are responding to employer and employee need for continual rapid reskilling. Short-term credentials, stackable credits and prior learning assessments all work to quickly equip employees with skills they need for today’s employment challenges. While the current economic challenges won’t last forever, the need for lifelong learning will. Surviving the current economic downturn and thriving in the long-term both require lifelong learning.
By Adrienne Way, Edcor CEO and owner
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