Education typically ends at an early stage of life, to the detriment of workers and employers. In Europe and the US, demand for physical and manual skills in repeatable tasks is expected to decline by 30% in the coming decade, according to McKinsey & Company, while demand for technological skills like coding is expected to increase by more than 50%. As career paths are increasingly altered by fundamental labour market disruptions, there is a growing need for lifelong learning - at all ages, both inside and outside of traditional schools, including after the completion of formal education.
Adult training is vital; helping employees gain new skills will be a key way to alleviate unemployment, address unequal access to resources, and engage older people in the workforce. While nearly 84% of the world’s talent under the age of 25 is being “optimized” through education, that figure falls to 45% for those over 25, according to the WEF’s Global Human Capital Report. In order to better engage people over 25 in gaining new skills, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning has recommended the development of national qualifications frameworks, and providing lifelong learning through community centers.
Skills decline when they are not used, as noted in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Survey of Adult Skills; accurately mapping the typical skills lifecycle is key for estimating the points at which people will likely have a need to refresh their competencies - whether with the aim of simply changing careers, re-entering the workforce after caring for a family member, or following an extended illness. Ideally, education systems can thrive thanks to a fundamentally strong public sector.
Better integrating literacy and basic skills programs into national education agendas can lead to an improved quality of life. Many developing countries have made significant progress in terms of increasing investment in education for young people, though education systems around the world continue to emphasize the front-loading of learning at an early stage of life - leaving older generations with educational attainment only as an increasingly faint memory.
However, by working together with the private sector, governments and educators could potentially develop more necessary infrastructure for providing learning and training opportunities to workers at all stages of their careers.