A reboot of lifelong learning can support a technological age

The digital disruption being felt across almost every industry, is causing many to be dismantled and re-thought.

As guests order food to their room from Uber Eats rather that use the restaurant, hotels must rethink their customer experience strategy. As Monzo, the on-line bank, creates a greater – albeit digital-footprint, the banks with physical infrastructure are no less effected.

The training for some jobs in the construction industry might have once lasted for ten years, now the window is three.

Speaking at a recent employer event, hosted by Remit Group, Steve Dineen CEO of FUSE Universal commented, “What we are seeing is new roles being created at a rapid rate but also the evolution of these roles changing. Take a sales role, two years ago it may have been cold calling based, today it’s more about social selling, perhaps tomorrow it is video pitches.”

As we see roles constantly evolving so there is a need for people to constantly reskill. Employers in 2019 are not questioning “What is the role you’ll fill?”, but instead, “What skills can you provide?”. In 2020 it may be, “How open are you to learning new skills and adapting to the roles we ask you to fill in the future?”.

In this dynamic work environment, labour market specialist Martin Christian-Kent argues that we must return to a state of lifelong learning, one he argues may never have gone away, but one that since 1998 has lacked a coherent policy that provided learners with a clear offer and a clear means to access learning and funding to incentivise them.

He also suggests that today’s skills system remains heavily front loaded and largely focused on schools or colleges equipping young people with the skills required for their future careers.  This he says will need to change. The effects of globalisation, changing demographics, automation and climate change will all mean that we will need a flexible skill system that supports individuals at any age to access and develop new skills and make career pivots.

To succeed in tomorrow’s labour market for example, people must use their existing skills, obtained through education and previous careers and along with a flexible mindset further themselves through the development of new skills or re-purposing of the skills they have in a different setting. This ongoing personal development will be the driver for continuous organisational improvement.

But there are no quick fixes when it comes to closing the predicted future skills gap.

What is clear is that businesses will need to help their people adjust to the disruptive impact of new technologies, while a culture of adaptability and lifelong learning will be crucial to spreading the wider benefits. This is particularly true as the age of the working population increases, as people are working longer to sustain themselves in retirement.

What is essential is a realisation that access to education, and availability of information is key for future growth.

To this end, proactive businesses are embedding learning experiences into daily routines in order to upskill their workforce. This shift makes a model of centralised organisational training courses appear outdated in the face of new, personalised approaches.

Steve Dineen argues, “We know people forget the majority of what they learn on a course. But we can identify what is it they need to know so we can make it available afterwards at any time, and in the best format.

This best format, according to Steve, is through a combination of human creation and machine learning.

Says Steve, “This isn’t about AI taking over from people or a battle between tech and humans – a combination of the two has the ability to supercharge what do. No AI will work out, for example, what a teacher has worked out, which is that an animated video is the best way of presenting some visual material for people to learn that content. But what the AI will do is get it to the people at the time they need it most.”

Improved STEM skills may be important in allowing people to perform these new future roles and tasks that will be created by AI and robotization, but soft skills like creativity and empathy will also be important in making people adaptable and employable throughout their working lives.

One of the benefits of apprenticeships is that via the apprenticeship levy, they are open to all ages, so there are no barriers to career change and development. With the support of the right training partner and access to the right learning technology, ongoing learning is possible with tailored content that is available at any time.

As organisations build a better workforce strategy for the future, they will need to rebalance their workforce composition, converting traditional jobs into more flexible roles, and accurately predict the tasks that people will perform in future to ensure they have the training available to support them.

If you would like to know more about apprenticeships and how learning technology can support their delivery, contact one of our experts today.