The make-up of a student has changed. Your average student is no longer a high school graduate, but comes from all walks of life and spans across a range of ages.
The fact is today’s students growing up and consist of a broader range of cohorts with 43% of students in higher education - over 9 million people— estimated to be 25 and older by 2020. One of the major reasons for this shift is that graduates and employers are all realizing that upskilling is integral to business and professional success.
However, while skill acquisition is one of the major benefits of continuing professional development, there are others that can boost the personal and professional lives of students.
There are many reasons why lifelong learning is beneficial, and one of the most tangible is that it leads to greater career earnings—up to $655,000 more over the course of a career.
Educational upgrades offer the opportunity for graduates and working professionals to boost their earning potential by updating their skills or learning new ones that are relevant to the workplace. After all, many graduates do not know what’s required of them until they enter the workforce and assess the day to day task required to be successful in a role.
Continuous learning, particularly credentials that can be accessed online provide a flexible and easy way for upskilling. The range available is also changing as more and more institutions start to offer a range of programs from foundational to specialist to expert.
Employees - future and current - with the right skills and a thirst for upskillling as an when necessary are sure to be bankable in today’s workforce and able to demand higher salaries than those that don’t, particularly as technological disruptions such as automation, robotics, and cognitive technologies become increasingly common in the workplace.
Making more money isn't the only benefit of continuous learning. There's evidence to suggest a correlation between learning and improved health. For one thing, learning is like exercise for the brain, and just like exercising the body it contributes to better physical health and mental health.
This is particularly true when it comes to keeping a brain sharp and improving memory. In addition, there's also a link between reading and an extended lifespan increasing survival by up to 23% due to increased brain cell connectivity. It is also linked to reduced stress levels, helping avoid conditions such as high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease and a weakened immune system.
From an educator’s perspective, providing continuous education can help improve the health and well-being leading to employable graduates and working professionals that are more productive, have lower rates of absenteeism, and are better equipped to manage the demands of a hectic workplace.
Another benefit of lifelong learning is the opportunities it creates. In terms of an individual's personal life, having more skills and a wider knowledge base can make social engagement easier as there are more topics open for discussion in groups or new social situations.
In a similar manner, the more a student or working professional knows and the more they can bring to a role or company. Upskilling on a continuous basis means more job opportunities and an increase in employability and promotion due to being a well-rounded candidate.
For example, as a marketing professional working in a fast paced environment upskilling in digital techniques and strategies such as conversion optimization, analytics and planning would make them a much bigger asset to any company or agency, especially compared to a candidate with little or basic digital marketing skills.
Continuous learning encourages collaboration. Whether it’s through group work in a classroom environment or an online community on an e-learning course, collaborative skills are nurtured in learning environments.
In the majority of jobs, collaboration is essential particularly as workplaces are changing from siloed entities to open plan environments that encourage hot-desking and overlap zones. The transition from student to graduate to employee can require adjustment but a collaborative attitude can go a long way to helping build relationships, grow into a role and be more creative.
A continuous learning approach can cultivate collaboration and help feed into a positive culture both while learning and also in a place of employment. After all, happy employees are 12% more productive than unhappy ones.
Learning can no longer be isolated to a certain period of life. The beauty of continuous learning is that it can prove valuable at any stage of a career.
Awareness and knowledge go hand in hand. By learning new skills or updating old ones, students can become aware of the latest trends and developments in a field that interests them or one that is key to their role.
Take data analytics as an example. Data is everywhere and the way companies both engage with and influence customers is through knowing what makes a customer think. For marketers and sellers, the ability to analyze data is key to generate leads and get sales over the line. Awareness of new developments in analytics from platforms to revised algorithms can help jobseekers or working professional excel in their role and become a leader or expert that others turn to.
As a child, curiosity is encouraged by parents and at schools alike. According to Psychology Today, many psychologists view curiosity as a life force that is crucial to happiness, intellectual growth, and well-being.
However, as we get older it can be easy to get bogged down with everyday tasks and pressures that overshadow our curious natures. When learning new things curiosity can be raised as learners explore new topics and areas unexplored before. The interactive nature of learning can help to stimulate questions and provoke new ways to think about concepts that can be applied to a new or existing role.
This spirit of curiosity can help to develop an individual and can filter through to many aspects of life. Ultimately it can help foster creativity and a new way of thinking that can open new literal and metaphorical doors.
The demand for continuing professional development is growing as is the value individuals place on it. 87% of personal learners say their activities helped them feel more capable and well rounded, while 69% say their learning opened up new perspectives in their lives.
No matter how people learn - classroom, blended or online - the benefits to their lives are significant and far-reaching; something every educational professional wants.