Have you heard the term ‘learning organisation’ before? It refers to organisations that prioritise professional growth, knowledge sharing, and enhancing employees’ career development. They encourage staff members to come up with new creative ideas, to network, and to continuously develop their skills. The more an organisation prioritises learning, the more they are likely to address complex problems and come up with innovative solutions. There are, however, many challenges in building and developing a learning organisation. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, ‘Virtually all leaders believe that to stay competitive, their enterprises must learn and improve every day. But even companies revered for their dedication to continuous learning find it difficult to always practice what they preach.’
The Lifelong Learning Bill: The UK Parliament has introduced the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill which will be rolled out in February 2025. The bill will allow people to access the Government’s Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE). The bill is intended to actively encourage the development of new skills. The bill received its first reading in the House of Commons on 1st February 2023.
Lifelong Loan Entitlement: LLE will offer people a loan of £37,000 (worth 4 years of post-18 study) which can be used flexibly to pay for education courses. Individuals can use it for full-time or part-time study of modules or for complete qualifications at levels 4 to 6. Tom Bewick, from the Federation of Awarding Bodies, highlights that ‘this Bill can help make the learning system genuinely cradle to grave, with individuals able to access the financial support they need, when it is most relevant to them.’
Based on the UK Parliament’s website, ‘the Bill could make the cost of study on short courses and modules more accessible for those who cannot study full-time due to work, family, or personal commitments. It could also encourage greater take-up of short courses from more debt-averse mature learners.’ According to Universities UK, ‘The Government expects the LLE will result in study being opened to a wider range of individuals because the associated flexibility will better accommodate flexible study and individuals in-work looking to build on existing knowledge and skills.’
LLE is expected to empower more individuals to study in a way that suits their situation. It would create new opportunities for those who have never considered gaining a higher education degree. People with a range of commitments (e.g. caring and family responsibilities) would be able to embark on training and develop their professional skills. As a result of technological changes, the job market is rapidly transforming, and new skills are needed to fill the gaps. The initiative could lead to improvements in social mobility and help people to upskill. The scheme is designed to provide lots of flexibility. People will be able to start and pause their studies. They will be able to retrain, upskill and meet the requirements of future employment sectors.
Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor and President, Nottingham Trent University expressed that: ’The Lifelong Loan Entitlement will transform the way in which every adult in England can engage with higher education, including those who have never done so before. It will redefine what it means to say you have been to university’. Enabling individuals to embark on studying has the potential to transform organisational culture. It can boost employees’ productivity, improve morale, and contribute to more innovative products and services. Peter Drucker, the father of management thinking, said ‘The only skill that will be important in the 21st century is the skill of learning new skills. Everything else will become obsolete over time.’
It is essential that wide eligibility criteria are used in order to make learning available to individuals. Learners should receive high-quality support in terms of career progression options. People might need a reduction in working hours and the support of their employer. Study modules need to address the requirements of businesses and prepare learners with the necessary skills (practical and theoretical) to meet organisational needs.
To tackle the complex challenges of the post-Covid world, organisations need to provide both formal and informal learning opportunities to staff members.
Formal learning is structured, and it includes set educational goals and objectives. Workshops, seminars, training events, structured coaching, mentoring, and tutorials can be used to help people develop knowledge and technical skills (e.g. IT or language skills). Learning normally takes place in traditional classroom environments or via virtual learning management systems.
Informal learning does not have any fixed learning objectives and it is often driven by the interests of the learners. Informal learning can be a powerful way for individuals to share knowledge and skills in an informal setting. As an example, a book club can help employees to discuss the latest trends in the industry. Communities of practice groups can provide an opportunity for people to share their experiences, brainstorm ideas and develop positive working relationships with others. The organisation’s Slack channel can encourage people to share valuable resources such as articles and videos.
Although The Lifelong Learning Bill could lead to some exciting new changes, organisations need to offer a broad range of opportunities to encourage learning and development. Although most people would agree that upskilling and continuous development is a good idea, there may be some challenges. Increasing work pressures and deadlines could lead to burnout and not being able to devote time to learning. Flexible work arrangements may be needed at times to allow people to balance work and study. Organisations may need to provide rewards to those who have been participating in learning initiatives. When people can develop their skills, they may become more engaged and possibly take on more responsibilities. Continuous learning needs to be a priority and become part of the fabric of culture. Although The Lifelong Learning Bill would be introduced in 2025, organisations need to carefully plan their learning and development approaches in the present, without relying heavily on the introduction of The Bill.
Further career development articles:
- Top Tips for Conducting Appraisals
- What Does Success Look Like For You?
- Career Development Toolkit for Higher Education Professionals
- Interactive CPD Toolkit