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Blog 6 November 2020

Lifelong Learning Week: the future of work

By Asi Panditharatna
Education, up-skilling and retaining is crucial if we want to succeed in the future. As Lifelong Learning Week draws to a close, our Director of Employment Services, Asi Panditharatna, shares his reflections on adult education and the future of work.

This week, we’ve been celebrating Lifelong Learning Week, an annual celebration of the benefits of adult education for individuals, communities and employers.

Education, up-skilling and re-training is crucial for future career success and development, as well as a vibrant economy – particularly given changes in the labour market and the challenges of Covid. In its recent ‘Learning for Life’ report, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says: “automation and technology will bring millions of new jobs in the UK: There will be a big rise in demand for skills such as digital, STEM and interpersonal skills”.

City and Guilds and EMSI (a labour market analytics firm) in their ‘Act Now’ report highlight how certain low skilled, high volume roles are in danger of becoming obsolete due to automation, with the pace of automation accelerated in some sectors due to employer response to the pandemic. The report describes how “a greater emphasis is needed on lifelong learning where ongoing training is taking place in order to learn new tasks and keep pace with the needs of the modern workplace. This is especially prevalent within disadvantaged areas of society which is likely to be one of the demographics hardest hit due to the types of occupations most at risk.”

And according to the CBI and City and Guilds, future roles and up-skilling or re-training will need to focus on human skills such as advising, decision-making, reasoning, communicating and interacting, resilience, flexibility and mental agility.

Forward’s Adult Education Budget supported programmes focus on qualifications as well as these ‘human’ skills or qualities. We work in partnership with amazing employers through our Partners and Employers Network (PEN) who provide virtual support, mentoring and mock interviews along with other opportunities for enrichment and work experience.

As a growing provider of Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) services to over 2,000 learners and residents in the community and 11 prisons across the UK, we also fully support the Act Now report’s recommendation about better and more consistent careers advice and “having clearer pathways and options that can be easily understood and communicated simply and effectively” which we agree is “critical to increasing opportunities for social mobility and tackling unemployment.”

In our experience of working with learners in prison, ex-offenders and other unemployed and NEET (not in education, employment or training) groups, we have found that people are often unaware of the range of opportunities that are available to them unless they can access this information and be regularly inspired by advisors, trainers, Employment Coaches or mentors. 

We are delighted to be celebrating Lifelong Learning Week, the achievement of our learners and clients and the contributions of our staff, volunteers, partners and employers.

Asi Panditharatna, Director of Employment Services

You can read more about Forward’s employment services here: