Never has lifelong learning been more needed than now | Nicola Urquhart

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With the focus on changes to working and careers throughout the Covid period, Nicola Urquhart, Lecturer in Careers and Employability at the University of Kent, explains why lifelong learning and a return to post-graduate study may be a vital step for employees and employers.

The world of work has changed dramatically over the last few decades and exponentially over the last few months.

The old concept of three stages of life – education, work and then retirement, has been replaced with multi-faceted working lives that take people between roles and organisations.

People on average will now have many more career transitions throughout their working life encompassing different jobs, self-employment and short term contracts, a combination often described as portfolio working. Artificial intelligence, robotics and automation mean that some jobs will be lost but also that some jobs will be created. The pandemic has sped up the technologisation of work, making personal reinvention by employees essential.

Returning to education provides the best environment for reinvention and futureproofing skills. The World Economic Forum recently declared a reskilling emergency as the World faces more than one billion jobs transformed by technology. Returning to education gives the opportunity to learn the skills truly in demand, with many courses designed in collaboration with businesses and sector organisations to ensure the skills taught today align with the skills needed tomorrow.

Work is a key component of one’s identity, so it is sensible to find work that fulfils. For some, a recent furlough has allowed them to reconsider what their career adds to their life. For others the pandemic has blurred the work/life areas, prompting reflection as to how work enhances, or detracts, from each of us.

Education allows people to grow, expand and evolve, and this is true at any stage of learning, especially if post-graduate learning is embraced. As the workplace evolves, employers are placing importance of the need for employees to adopt a mind-set compatible with the speed of change. Returning to education gives the opportunity and space to develop this all important mind-set. Never has lifelong learning been more needed than now.

With many post-graduate programmes providing the work experience vital to considering new careers that fit with personal values and goals, accessing the education-environment is an opportunity to explore future options, possibilities and careers. It allows us to take back autonomy of direction that many of us have been without for 2020. The skills and mind-set gained from further education will prepare us for 2021 and beyond.

About the author

Nicola Urquhart is a Lecturer in Careers and Employability at Kent Business School. As a qualified Careers Adviser and Coach she is experienced at supporting students to be successful in the highly competitive graduate labour market, and to develop the necessary skills to effectively manage their careers.

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