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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The World of Work Would Be Better If... Lifelong Learning Was Encouraged

The latest instalment in a series of blogs from HappyMaven HR & Communications Advisor, Jacob Bean, exploring how the world of work could change for the better...

With the average age of exit from the labour market and the employment rate of 50-64 year olds both increasing [1], what was once the 40-year career is now looking more like 50 or even 60 years. As a result, education and career choices made in early life carry weight and implications for decades to come. An aging population also means a greater dependency on pensions that the economy will unlikely be able to shoulder, already seen with the state pension age being pushed to 68 for those born after 1977, and a review in place to bring the next change forward another 8 years [2].
It may be challenging to reskill after 2 or 3 decades in a profession but not impossible, especially if transferable skills are identified and nurtured.

I’m not saying choosing your GCSEs at 13 and 14 determines your entire working life, just that as you go on, options tend to narrow based on your knowledge and experience, making it harder to reskill and change professions. Surely it is unrealistic to expect most people to want to stay in the same field for 40 years and even more so when working lives are extended to 60 years. It may be challenging to reskill after 2 or 3 decades in a profession but not impossible, especially if transferable skills are identified and nurtured. And wouldn’t employers benefit from the fresh perspective, motivation and energy that a re-trained employee would offer?

As I see it, there are two main supporting arguments for enabling and supporting reskilling on a large scale. One, that the career aspirations we hold when we’re young, which go on to inform education choices and early career steps, are unlikely to be fully formed, considered and sometimes even suitable and realistic. Depending on the time and money already invested, and the requirements of the desired change, it may not be possible for some as they lack the resources to have a second chance. Whether it’s funding, time commitments or other responsibilities such as care, I think it’s a shame to lock people out of certain career paths because they didn’t make the right choice initially. Alongside the moral consideration of being stuck in a career with little option for alternatives for a significant amount of our lives – employees who are engaged and fulfilled in work support better performance [3], so if an organisation is able to, then it seems like an avenue worth pursuing and investing in.

The other factor to consider is the changing nature of work which can lead to skill gaps and shortages. Emerging economies, globalisation, demographic change, and technological advancements have global impact on jobs and skill requirements [4]. The rate at which these developments occur can exceed our ability to train and gain the skills required – leading to gaps or vacuums forming. It is crucial for organisations (as well as countries) to continually develop skills in order to best meet developing trends and be well equipped to deal with unforeseen challenges.

Practically, I think shadowing, mentoring, and greater acceptance and encouragement of perusing different training opportunities are the best steps forward. Shadowing different areas of the business for as little as a few hours a week would enable employees to better gauge their interests and whether they want a change. It also would aid in knowledge transfer and sharing within an organisation, improving robustness. Training and development for employees is a crucial step in ensuring organisations are prepared for developments and unexpected challenges, having greater opportunity to be trained in a wider range of skills would enable this further and likely lead to employees feeling more valued and engaged.

As the apocryphal Henry Ford quote says... 

‘The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay’.
At HappyMaven we recognise that Inclusion and Belonging come in many guises. And for some employees, that guise may come in supporting them to explore and gain new skills. Skills that may move them from their current roles, and maybe even from the organisation, but in tandem this creates a culture of ongoing personal and professional development and reaps all of the rewards that such cultures garner.


1. Economic labour market status of individuals aged 50 and over, trends over time: September 2020, DWP, 2020. Retrieved from:

2. Second State Pension Age Review launches, GOV, 2021. Retrieved from

3. Employee engagement and motivation, CIPD, 2021. Retrieved from

4. The future of work: jobs and skills in 2030, UKCES, 2014. Retrieved from

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