Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning is “the ongoing, voluntary and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship and personal development, but also competitiveness and employability”. (Wikipedia)

Most people have hobbies and interests which fascinate them, drawing them to drill deeper. They find pleasure in a growing understanding of art or archaeology, cuisine or concerti, fossils or fish, gardening or genealogy. It can be done solo or in groups, in libraries or on the web, at our many educational institutions or overseas. A striking example of seniors engaged in learning is seen in the tourism capitals of the world, where every historic centre and heritage building seethes with groups listening intently (and perhaps unsuccessfully) to their young teacher. Lifelong learning forms a significant part of an economy, both through the economic activity of the providers and by way of our educated citizens who “tend to find higher-paying occupations, leaving monetary, cultural and entrepreneurial impressions on communities.” (Cassandra Whyte, educator).

It seems we participate enthusiastically in lifelong learning, provided we have the freedom to choose theme and content. To follow our own whims and fancies, down pathways of pure education. The same motivation as the working classes of Victorian England whose adult education at the local Workers Educational Association replaced that schooling they missed as children. This learning was not for career advancement, since the class system held them tight. It was for the sheer joy of Learning.

Where the idea loses appeal for many is when it becomes compulsory! My generation is remarkably grumpy and deceitful about our required Continuing Professional Development! Despite its obvious economic and market benefits for professionals and skilled trades, we have to be dragged to courses, cajoled to keep our hours up, and threatened with the loss of our Woodchuck Badge if we are delinquent. The enforcement regime is unsurprisingly childish, since we qualification holders are not displaying much maturity.

Maintaining our professional knowledge and skills is just smart. Through new approaches to structured learning, peer assessment and self-reflection, we can ensure our competence, relevance and marketability for future paid work. This is important for us, as firstly most New Zealanders of our cohort do not save enough to afford an unconstrained retirement, and secondly our health and life expectancy keeps improving.

Statistics New Zealand points to a rapid change in workforce engagement as the last of the Silent Generation (DOB 1925-1945) has now passed 65, and the Baby Boomers (DOB 1946-1964) begin to hit that threshold. Stats NZ predicts a sharp jump in 65+ year-olds’ workforce participation, from 114,000 in 2011 to 175,000 in 2016, 233,000 in 2021, and 296,000 in 2026. In these fifteen years, the 65+ generation’s share of the NZ labour force will rise from 5% to 11%.

But these predictions presuppose that individuals have maintained current and relevant our skills and knowledge to be a successful earner, economic contributor and team player in a fast-changing, technological, selective labour market.

So, for continuing income – whether psychic or assessable – keep the learning up!