Organizations and Communities Placing Stronger Emphasis on Lifelong Learning

Organizations across the U.S. are encouraging their employees to continue to read, study, and learn throughout their careers, but more could be done to help adult workers learn new skills. In a world often defined by technological change, it’s common for adults to require new training and education mid-career.

Roughly 73% of adults consider themselves to be lifelong learners, but that leaves 27% adults who are completely content with the amount of knowledge they currently posses, which could be quite small in some instances. Gone are the days when just a high school diploma or college degree meant a subsequent high-paying job. College is now just the beginning for many people, and it’s up to the individual to continue working at expanding their knowledge.

According to Computer World, well-known technology organizations are already leading the charge to place a stronger emphasis on lifelong learning. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has established personal learning goals for himself and his employees each year; Google looks for “learning animals” as it recruits new potential hires; and United Technologies’ Employee Scholar Program helps employees “pursue lifelong learning” in and out of the workplace.

Although the number of companies focusing on career learning is increasing, sadly, many companies are cutting back learning related programs. Still, 36 million adults lack even basic literacy skills across the United States.

A 2015 President’s Council of Economic Advisers report shows that from 1996 to 2008, the percentage of employees receiving employer-sponsored training decreased by more than 40%.

Luckily, even some of the country’s smallest cities are promoting learning programs for adults. The Missoulian reports that inside a converted elementary school building in Missoula, more than 500 people a day take classes on various topics that will give them a new skill and further their education.

There are about 2,000 classes offered by 200 instructors each year at the Lifelong Learning Center. The classes range from phlebotomy and bookkeeping to welding and even Korean cooking.

“I was here last night at 8 p.m. and there’s not a parking spot — everyone of the classrooms is full,” said Monique Fortmann, adult education division director for the Lifelong Learning Center. “You look in the classrooms and you might have a group of students who are prepping to take the ACT, right next to that you might have students that are taking sign language and you have anybody from early 20s to late 60s in there. It’s just all over the place.”

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