Lifelong Learning: From Onboarding to Retirement

Lifelong learning, according to the definition contained in the Internet dictionary at BNET, the Business Directory, is the continual acquisition of knowledge and skills throughout somebody’s life.” That source adds: “It occurs in preparation for, and in response to, the different roles, situations, and environments that somebody will encounter in the course of a lifetime. It is supported by formal and informal education systems, both within and outside the workplace, through which somebody can both learn and receive guidance and encouragement. The adoption of lifelong learning is seen as a key element in continuing professional development, and as an important tool in maintaining employability.”


This edition of the Career Mechanic will examine how lifelong learning has become a permanent element in how workforce members proceed through their personal career development and how employers must be supportive of this type of enterprise in order to make their entity successful, productive, and profitable. It also brings life to the thought that not to engage in continuing education is to invite career obsolescence. 


Following, the reader will discover a number of contemporary truisms about the role of lifelong learning.


Lifelong Learning is Individually Tailored


Individually, and at a pace each person chooses to follow, the contemporary workforce member will chart a course of personal “renewal” shortly after they transition or “onboard) from college, training or school to their early employment. From formal course-taking and in-depth study to casual reading, one’s career renewal and continuing education will be adapted to their personal needs and unique learning style. While previous educational experiences were shaped for a class of learners, lifelong learning experiences---to a great extent---will often be shaped by and for the individual learner.


A Curriculum and Pedagogy without Limits


The learning options of the workforce are constantly being improved and extended and the sources of those educational experiences have become highly diversified. Imagine a virtual course catalog with as many entries as the once familiar phone book. Anything the professional or skilled worker needs to know to be more productive and efficient will be available to her or him in a virtual catalog of lifelong learning experiences.


Using the technologies of the time, employers can bring any subject to any staff member at any time. If one can’t find a learning opportunity immediately---wait an hour---someone is working on it as you wait. Much of the applied curriculum of the workplace of the future will be a mix of content (the ‘what you need to know’) and process (the ‘how you do it’) information. Mixed in also will be a comprehensive array of exemplary, evidenced-based practices and programs.


Classrooms will Surface Everywhere


Many employees will return to the formal classrooms where they once studied, the two and four year institutions and career training institutions that prepared them for career entry. Others will find knowledge expansion and skill-building opportunities through conferences, seminars, workshops, and other educational gatherings designed to facilitate career learning. 


Emerging also will be Personal Educational Plans (PEPs) where the specific training needs of individual employees will be designed and activated. The evolution of massive open online courses (MOOCs) will mean that anything taught at any educational enterprise in the world is within the reach of any workforce member or employer who wants to offer such a learning experience to staff members. The workplace itself will also become a classroom, as employers will bring entity- and subject-driven training directly to individual work settings and stations of its employees. 


New Educators will Appear and Multiply


The innovators and visionaries in business, communication, engineering, finance, health & medicine, manufacturing, marketing, sales & distribution, and every other workplace environment---the practitioners that perform their career roles with extraordinary precision and success---will join the traditional teachers and fill the educator roles of the future. As the leaders, owners, managers, supervisors and practitioners of their discipline, their ability to teach and educate the next generation will be very much in command. 


Employers may not need to look too far from home for the expertise they wish to extend to their full staff. These “home grown” educators have the advantage of making learning relevant to the setting, a factor that even the best institutional trainers and consultants often struggle with.


Mentoring will Emerge as an Extension of Teaching


Beyond the transmission of new knowledge and extended skills, many of tomorrow’s educators will personalize the post learning experience by serving as mentors. In this capacity, lifelong learning has the potential of becoming more “humanized” than many earlier educational experiences. A part of the ongoing performance-appraisal activity of the future may be the inclusion of PEP progress assessment where employees will be evaluated on their movement toward the achievement of the learning objectives identified in that plan.




Creating a system for lifelong learning and having the human resource development mechanisms in place that facilitate the knowledge and skill acquisition experiences of the workforce is growing in importance in the U.S. workplace. Relevant and ongoing lifelong learning is an employment feature frequently mentioned in the employee retention literature as a highly valued and desirable workplace characteristic. 


Futurists talk about the rapidity of change and the ongoing explosion of knowledge and technology that is ever present throughout the workplace. Lifelong learning is a means of adapting and adjusting---factors that will bring success to the individual worker, and to the business, organization or agency. The adage directed at our youth and young adults---‘get a good education’---should likely be changed to ‘never stop learning.” 


© Education Now 


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