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What is Lifelong Learning in Vocational Education and Training?

10 - December - 2019

As we all know by now, the work environment is in constant change. Workers don’t just need to be flexible with the current situation, they also need to be prepared for the requirements in the near future. To stay relevant as a valuable workforce, an ongoing learning process is necessary. For this reason, Lifelong Learning in Vocational Education and Training is high in demand.

This article takes you through the following in relation to Lifelong learning:

  1. What it is
  2. It's importance and relevance
  3. The stages of Livelong Learning
  4. Real life examples

1. Definition of Lifelong Learning

Lifelong Learning describes the ongoing process of learning undertaken in schools, RTOs and universities. However informal learning at home, at the workplace and in social life are contributing to this ongoing process as well. The motivations and reasons to engage in learning can range from a need through to studying for personal interest. 

2. Importance of Lifelong Learning

Everyone who is currently working can clearly see how essential it is to stay up-to-date with the skill requirements of the job market. This is especially the case in terms of technology. Why's that? Because the nature of tech is to evolve and change constantly. In the coming years this change will become increasingly frequent as the devices we use in our daily professional life get updated so often. The common worker of today needs to be able to adapt to these changes if he wants to stay a relevant workforce. At first this may sound quite intimidating and can be rather seen as a disadvantage but it is the opposite. Tasks can be performed more quickly, efficient and safer with the help of technology. If workers understand the importance of this need for constantly skilling themselves, they will acquire new skills to upgrade their potential. In essence, this will improve their own lives and contribute to the economic growth of Australia. This didn't go unnoticed by the government. Key priority of the Department of Employment , Small Business and Training for their 2018-19 Investment Plan was to focus on providing skills that are required to participate in today's working world. The plan is structured into different initiatives like the Higher Level Skills program. The goal is to help workers gain higher level skills to secure their employment or achieve advancements in their career. In conclusion Life Long Learning is as relevant as never before for the workforce of Australia. Employees need to keep themselves up to date with the standards that technology sets. A worker that has all the current requirements to operate in his field is a valuable worker.

3. The stages of Lifelong Learning

Research has shown that workers are engaging more in formal education than they used to and there are clear stages at their life where the need for further training is higher. A survey from 2017 lists statistics on what the reasons were for students to enrol in VET. The motives were the following:

What is Lifelong Learning in Vocational Education and Training?
  • 25.1% to get a job
  • 22.3% because their job required an upskilling
  • 12.1% for personal interest
  • 11.9% to acquire extra competencies for their work
  • 6.2% to go into a different carrier path
  • 4.9% to access a continuing course of their study
  • 4.1% to get promoted or find a better job

Source: VOCSTATS Total VET students and courses 2017. Proportion is calculated using the reason for study at the subject enrolment level, excluding where the reason is not known.

Another report from the Productivity Commission (2017b) shows which types of Lifelong Learning can be provided by Vocational Education and Training. There are three different options of Lifelong Learning for people: initial skilling, upskilling and reskilling.

Initial skilling: This is the first time an individual is in contact with skilling.

In Australia this takes place in schools for most people in the Years 10, 11 and 12 and statistically most students are male. In terms of post-school skilling, almost one in 10 students undertake some form of VET study. People who study post-school are most likely to go into a certificate 3 level with engineering or similar courses in scope.

Upskilling: If an individual wants to improve his skills or learn new skills to increase chances for a better career or a higher promotion, it is regarded as Upskilling.

A big factor for upskilling is technological change and the need to understand how to use it. This means that many people need to receive training while working at the same time. RTOs tend to provide flexible courses to adjust to the schedules of employees. As the market is changing rapidly due, in part to technology, RTOs can really maximise the opportunity to increase intake of students by offering short and part time courses.

Reskilling: The process of reskilling is best described as a person that needs to receive training to change jobs or start a different career.

According to a study by AlphaBeta, nine out of ten Australian workers will at least change their jobs once during their career. That’s where the Vocational Education and Training sector plays an important role of reskilling displaced Australians workers. A person might have had the right role for a while, but personal circumstances like having children might change that. VET offers training that enables employees to gain transferable skills instead of having only company-specific expertise. RTOs need to provide courses that are suited to this audience.

4. Examples of Lifelong Learning

The best way to represent Lifelong Learning is with the help of real-life examples. The following stories are about two individuals that took the initiative and upskilled or reskilled.

What is Lifelong Learning in Vocational Education and Training?

We interviewed student Thibault from Imagine Education in Ashmore, Gold Coast first. He is currently enrolled in a Certificate 3 course for commercial cookery and will continue his studies with Certificate 4 afterwards. The 25-year-old is originally from France, where he was trained to become a Baker. It was always his dream to live in Australia, so after two years of working in a bakery, he decided to come over. Initially, Thibault planned to do a 1-year work and travel in Australia but soon realised he wanted to stay for good. While searching for options to stay and how to continue his career, he came across Vocational Education and Training. Straight away, the idea of combining theory and practical learning appealed to him. With already having some experience in the food industry, it didn’t take long and Thibault started a course in commercial cookery. The young baker took the chance of broadening his skills to change into a new pathway in his career with the help of VET and Lifelong Learning. This example shows how important upskilling is for people that want to grow within their career and in the case of Thibault even want to start a new life.

What is Lifelong Learning in Vocational Education and Training?The second interview features 34-year-old Caroline, that chose a new pathway in childcare. She used to work in retail as a sales associate for a well-known fashion brand. After about four years in the business and a promotion to an assistant store manager, Caroline noticed she needed a change. The daily routine and the hard working conditions made her want to change. She chose to start a career in childcare as this was always her big passion, but she never got the chance to pursue it. The best option to do so was a Certificate 3 in Early Childhood Education and Care at the Registered Training Organisation EIM Training in Brisbane and then continue with the diploma. After just over two and a half years Caroline managed to finish the course and find work shortly afterwards. The successful graduate has since worked as an Early Childhood Educator and is aiming to become the Assistant Centre Manager soon. This determined person managed to make a big change of career within a short period of time. Caroline chose to use a Vocational Education and Training pathway to be reskilled and start a new career.

These two examples show that Lifelong Learning can come in all types and forms. It doesn't matter if the person wants to Upskill to gain extra knowledge in their field or if the person wants to Reskill to pursue a completely different pathway, this is all part of Lifelong Learning.

In conclusion more and more Australians will be interested in Lifelong Learning in the future. Skills that a worker learns at the start of his career might not be relevant towards the end of his career and he may requires upskilling. RTOs can communicate their courses differently and to a broader audience by allowing part time study and suggesting multiple pathways rather than just one. The training should not be for specific jobs and instead be a skill that is suitable for multiple jobs, that provide different potential areas for work. Motivating employers and employees to spend time towards Lifelong Learning should be a number one priority.