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Careers and learning: real time, all the time

During the 20th century, life expectancy rose dramatically among the world’s wealthiest populations from about 50 to more than 75 years, and this trend has continued in the past two decades. The reasons are fairly straightforward including improvements in public health, nutrition and medicine.

Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York believe the upward trajectory has a limit and we’ve probably already reached it. This century, the age at which the oldest people die has plateaued at 110, and despite scientific advances the researchers believe imperfections in the copying of genes will always place a finite limit to human life, which they estimate at 125 years.

That makes for a long working life, a long retirement and a long time managing jobs, money and life skills. The notion of a lifelong “career” is now so 20th-century, and employers too are preparing for the 100-year life.

As companies rethink learning and development (L&D) delivery they have to take into account the rapidly falling half-life skills, which is now down to about five years. Employees should be allowed to build skills on their own terms.

Continuous learning will be critical, but rather than bemoan the upheaval caused by the digital age, the opportunities it offers for aiding the transformation to the organisation of the future, and reskilling employees, will be invaluable.

Training will be ever-present and available over a range of platforms. Curated content, video and mobile solutions are leaving traditional learning management systems behind.

Only a decade ago, companies were content to build virtual universities and online course categories. Today, the learning function is a strategic area of the business focusing on innovation and leadership development. The aim is to promote lifetime learning for longer careers. But that’s for those working for an employer.

In Australia so far this century, net growth in older workers has outpaced net growth in younger workers. In the first 16 years the Australian workforce increased by three million jobs to 12 million. About 800,000 net extra jobs were added in the young age group of 15 to 34. A further 800,000 jobs were added across the middle of the working life between the years 35 and 54. The rest, 1.3 million jobs, have been added in net terms to the 55-plus age group.

It’s all a learning process. Retirement can be stressful and the “boomerpreneurs” know they have to work at living longer, part of which is work itself. Employers know their workers of all ages will want to, and have to, keep learning. The big advantage will be an option to hire from within.


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