Lifelong Learning isn't just about the job

Learning skills that are not necessarily vital for work may actually be a benefit to the job.

A survey of more than a thousand adults, conducted by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), found that the UK is a nation of prospective learners.

50 per cent of the survey respondents said they would be prepared to take up a course to improve their skills in areas of interest to them, with 60 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds expressing the desire to learn new skills.

However, this type of interest-based learning has a broader benefit for employers. David Hughes, chief executive of NIACE, said: “This survey shows how much we all want to learn new things; it's a natural part of who we are but it also shows that people need help to take steps to find where and how to learn.”

The NIACE’s Festival of Learning, which starts at the beginning of May, brings together the wider education and skills community, including employers, charities, professional bodies and government departments, to celebrate and promote the many learning opportunities available. It also encourages employers to look at development opportunities for their workforces.

Hughes added: “That’s why initiatives like the Festival of Learning are so important to encourage people to take the leap and go for it, whatever their age or level of education. All of the top skills people would love to learn most are about people expressing themselves, who they are, what they stand for. The confidence learning those skills brings are crucial for everyone in life and in work. That's why we will continue to campaign for lifelong learning to be truly accessible for everyone.”

Soft Skills: Who needs them?

Learning and development courses in skills that excite people help them build vital soft skills such as time management and communication. A report published in January found that soft skills contribute £88bn to the UK economy. The same report, from research group Development Economics, warned that employers need to find new ways to recognise and improve soft skills or they risk undermining the productivity of more than half a million workers by 2020.
The top 10 skills people would love to learn were:

  • Cooking and baking (39 per cent)
  • Playing a musical instrument (23 per cent)
  • Learning a language or languages (21 per cent)
  • Singing (17 per cent)
  • Photography (15 per cent)
  • Dance (13 per cent)
  • DIY (13 per cent)
  • Art (11 per cent)
  • Gardening (11 per cent)
  • Creative Writing (11 per cent)

Don’t underestimate the value that any of these learning opportunities brings to the workplace: improved numeracy, writing skills, planning and project management are all by-products of adult learning.

CPD isn’t always just about job related study.  Forward thinking firms offer employees the opportunity to choose further learning subjects that are not directly related to their job – learning a language is a good example because it can bring a greater understanding of the use of English.  Even learning to sing or dance can improve an individual’s ability to work co-operatively with other people and to communicate more effectively.

For more information about the Festival of Learning go to

About the author

Kate is the chairman and co-founder of RWA and has worked for the company for nearly 20 years. She is a fan of developing practical, workable, business-led policies and procedures. Kate has specialist training experience within the financial services sector, including major general insurers, and the Lloyd’s underwriting and broking market.  She has researched and developed numerous training programmes, both for commercial and in-house use.  She has extensive experience of developing in-house and public training programmes for business skills, including Diversity, Employment Law, Management and Leadership, Motivation, Coaching and Feedback, Communication Skills and EQ.

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