Retirement? Adult education is the key to career rejuvenation

With the UK facing the cost pressures of an ageing population, today’s employees face working longer – and that’s where colleges come in, says Mark Malcomson

Mark Malcomson

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The working world has changed considerably in the past decade. The rapid pace of change in terms of technology and automation, flexible working patterns, the rise of the “gig” economy, the UK’s changing demographic profile and the potential effects of Brexit mean we have entered a time of great transformation in the nature of work.

We can no longer expect any job, or even career, to last a lifetime. London Business School professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott explore this issue in their excellent book The 100-Year Life: living and working in an age of longevity. They argue that we all need to embrace new ways of living, working and learning throughout our lives, as the traditional perception of a simple three-stage life based on “education, career, retirement” breaks down.

At City Lit, we are already seeing a profound shift in attitudes towards changing career in mid-stream, mental and physical wellbeing as people age, and the concept of “retirement”. Changes are coming in myriad ways.

Firstly, the UK population is ageing, and we will all need to work longer. By 2020, the number of people aged over 65 is expected to increase by 12 per cent, or 1.1 million people. This means that adult education and lifelong learning have a huge role to play in keeping individuals skilled for life.

The historic idea of “the day I retire” has already eroded and it will continue to do so as people “phase” out of the job market over time rather than have a hard stop.

Not just a 'nice to have' policy

Research from the Skills Commission suggests that older workers represent the single largest pool of untapped potential in this country. Its studies indicate that keeping every UK worker economically active for just one year longer could add as much as £17 billion to UK GDP.

Colleges like City Lit, therefore, have a huge role to play in opening up opportunities for career rejuvenation in later life. The opportunity to upskill should be available not just to older workers, but also to workers at all stages of their careers. This is not just a “nice to have” policy but an economic necessity driven by whole professions and careers disappearing.

This is an edited version of an article in the 26 May edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. Your new-look Tes magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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Mark Malcomson

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