Jiva Technology

Mid-life retraining

Most people think of education as something that happens to you early in life. You get an education, you get a job, you retire, you die. Proponents of education typically encourage students to get a better education at the start on the grounds that it leads to a better job, more money and a comfortable retirement. But increasing longevity is playing havoc with this thinking. If, as seems likely, current school leavers and graduates will be working into their 70’s, will the education and skills they gamer today be of any use in 50 years time. Just to reinforce that point, an 18 year old school leaver this year will likely still be working in 2069. It sounds like science fiction.

With robotics, artificial intelligence and massive medical advances on the near horizon, it frankly seems ridiculous to talk about arming todays school leavers with the skills they will need in the workplace. We have to be honest with each other and start recognising that gaining skills and education will happen at critical points in our lives and careers. Education will still be front loaded, but its not hard to envision a world where it becomes the norm to pick up new skills and new ideas in your mid-40’s, your mid-50’s or even in your mid-60’s. Japan, which in many respects is leading the demographic revolution associated with longevity encourages second careers as a way to stay healthy and engaged with society. The Japanese Government works hard to get over 60’s into work, particularly in community related jobs. In the US, Markle work hard to provide opportunities to re-skill or up-skill where workers find themselves at the sharp end of ¬†automation. Historically, automation has been a problem for blue collar jobs, but as an increasing number of white collar jobs disappear, organisations like Markle help people to build on existing skills, find new marketability in the workplace, becoming in effect ‘new collar’ workers.

These trends will continue, which means organisations like Markle are going to be vital in the future, but above all, we need to re-orient our education systems to normalise re-training, re-skilling or even taking existing skills and re-applying them. It says everything that there isn’t really a word for the latter.

None of us like to admit it, but skills and education have a shelf life. We all know that ten years down the road, most people would struggle to pass the exams they took as an 18 yo or a 21 yo. Experience, a refinement of the skills needed in the workplace and the addition of job related skills means its less important to be able to pass a final set of exams in economics (unless of course you’re an economist), but that should not blind us to the fact that the original flexibility we had as a new recruit disappears over time. The idea of creating specific programmes at our universities and colleges for supplementing our skills is an idea whose time has come. Perhaps its time that university web pages had fewer fresh faces on them to encourage a broader section of the workforce pick up new skills, perhaps its time to create a whole new category of courses, so that undergraduate and graduate programmes were joined by mid-career programmes.

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