Pivoting into L&D – Reflections on the future of lifelong learning

Photo of Mathias Rosenqvist.

Coming from a background of having spent almost 12 years teaching and transforming within the field of K-12 education, with a vested interest in seeing how technology can enhance and develop learning, I felt it was time to make a pivot. So, when entering this neighboring field of L&D, I needed to familiarize myself with this new environment.

I was given the opportunity to participate in the digital conference LTDX 2021, provided by Learning Technologies. The array of speakers and seminars gave me an excellent introduction to the field. I was able to familiarize myself with current trends and the essential terminology. The most challenging and rewarding seminar for me was held by Simon Gibson – currently a consultant and advisory board member with 10+ years of experience in the learning field. He asked us to look critically at our own industry and asked some very pertinent questions that all could be summarized in this core challenge: Are we really getting the best possible outcome from our efforts?

Simon argues that the role of L&D not only is to deliver solutions but also to define the needs underlying these solutions. Or using his own words:

We need to build and market a brilliant Why?

What, then, do we need to start crafting this brilliant Why? Simon suggests that we look at the Futures of Jobs Report by World Economic Forum. It is comprehensive, covering fields from Manufacturing to Health Care and analyses of some 28 countries. It is an interesting read; I would also recommend that you take look at it. Most of the conclusions, however, ought to be well known to most readers. These include:

1. The automatization of labor, leading to large scale layoffs

There is a tectonic shift undergoing in the global labor market. Automatization leads to displacement of a significant portion of the workforce.

2. Covid catalyzing and driving digitalization and technology adoption

This process of automatization and digitalization is only sped up by the ongoing pandemic, making it all the more relevant for us to take action.

3. The widening skill gap because of these two forementioned forces.

A logical consequence of these factors is a huge, and widening, disparity between the skills available to the job marketplace and the skills desperately needed for companies and economies to thrive.

This is not news, however, seeing the data and graphs make acting on them all the more vital. I believe that the ailment essentially is a systemic one: it has its roots in the current model of learning. The idea that you spend around 13 years in learning from kindergarten to university getting a degree that is going make you ready for an entire career is close to laughable. This degree is more often than not accompanied by a lifelong dept. What is desperately needed is an infrastructure that takes into account the ever-changing nature of the labor market and the skills needed. We need to cater to the undeniable fact that it is learning, rather than being indebted, that needs to be lifelong.

It is my firm belief that L&D inhabits a unique position to act as an intermediary between a job market in need of skilled personnel and the people that are either unemployed or trapped in dead-end jobs. The challenge lies in the current infrastructure. I believe that it is precisely here that the opportunity for a brilliant Why? can be found. To create new paths to learning in order to secure a healthy economy, keep our industries on the forefront and keep people from being caught up in dead end jobs and unemployment. But L&D cannot do it alone. We need alliances and collaboration with forward minded companies, learning institutions and government bodies. For me, this would be a logical continuation of my pivoting career: to ensure that learning does not stop once you leave K-12, or higher education for that matter. Lifelong learning should not be something rare, it is a necessity for us as individuals and a requirement for our companies and nations to flourish.

What about you, reader? If you are in the private sector, does this inspire you to start creating pathways to the closing of skill gaps within your organization? Or, if you are in higher education, does it make you want to collaborate to further ensure that people, who already might have a diploma, to reskill themselves in order to continue their learning paths? If you are part of a government body, does this inspire you to create initiatives for life-long learning?

Regardless, we are here, ready to do our part.

Mathias Rosenqvist
Learning Designer, Xtractor – part of the Semcon Group