Lately we’ve been hearing and reading the sentence “change is the only constant” a lot! As we know, this saying is bigger than just the context of the pandemic. It’s also tied to speedy technological developments and modern life itself and brings with it the need for trust—among us, in our institutions—as never before. While impermanence and uncertainty have always been here, they seem more brisk and present in our lives than ever, and we want to know how to graciously navigate them.
Rightly so, the Austrian-American educator and author Peter Drucker once said, “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn”.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that organisations and people are embracing continuous professional learning more and more. This type of learning, in fact, is an opportunity to develop talent to better understand and surmount today’s and tomorrow’s challenges, but it’s also one of the answers to the skills shortfalls companies face nowadays.
These challenges are immensely linked–but not exclusively–to the digital context we are living and are evolving in, which is quite different from the one that prevailed 20 years ago. To that, one has to add the significant and notorious shift towards sustainability. As a consequence, training needs are increasing.
This blog examines the importance of lifelong learning for organisations and their people so they can be both part of the changing world and world-changers as well. It also delves into how the learning experience itself is evolving with relentless technological developments.
Digital vs Traditional learning experience
Unquestionably, technology has greatly improved access to information and to learning opportunities.
From free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to master’s degrees, if you do a search online, you will discover that the offer is limitless and covers anyone’s needs.
Moreover, acquiring knowledge and new skills is no longer necessarily location or time-bound; you can do it from the comfort of your home and at the pace and time of your convenience.
However, technological developments alone are not enough to meet today’s learning needs. Technology acts, in a way, as a catalyst. It has made learning more accessible to more people, and it has enabled the creation of new, unique formats and more personalised courses.
On the other hand, though, people still want access to real expertise and to be able to interact with people who master the subject.
Hence, training centres such as PwC’s Academy, want to take into account the learners’ expectations and to offer them the possibility to have constructive exchanges with specialists. It’s not just about the content; more importantly, it’s about offering learning experiences.
A personalised learner-centric approach
We asked Etienne Hirsch, Head of PwC’s Academy, about the main types of skills in demand in Luxembourg.
He classifies them in two main groups. There is on the one hand the need for the acquisition of technical skills, for instance, related to regulatory changes, which require employees to keep up to date as part of their duties.
Simultaneously, there are also learning needs related to changes in functions or roles throughout an organisation. In this case, teams need to broaden and restructure their scope of skills and this can include both technical and soft skills.
This is why it’s important for organisations to define precisely what the learning goal is, based on each person’s needs.
This trend shows that, in this day and age, flexibility and personalisation are indispensable to the learning experience. The same old saying “one size does not fit all”, well, fits perfectly in this case.
People want to go beyond the theoretical course, requiring information to be contextualised and practical. Therefore, while tutorials are great, organisations also need to offer different learning entry points.
Indeed, one of their main challenges is to be able to contextualise theory during workshops, design thinking sessions or exchange sessions between specialists and other actors. This will surely make the learning experience unique, special and impactful.
Who’s in the driving seat of learning?
When the digital revolution started to gain ground, the tendency was for people, in a personal capacity, to proactively take responsibility for managing their skills.
Now that digital is deeply rooted in our everyday lives–both personal and professional–and is unskippable, the appetite comes from both organisations and their employees.
The employee is increasingly committed and eager to prepare for the future and to take on new challenges, while the employer encourages more and more, and even subsidises, such pursuits.
Additionally, in their desire to innovate, provide new solutions and adapt to market changes, organisations as a whole have a clear need to constantly develop skills and enrich their thinking about the current technological, sectorial and societal context and about what the future holds.
Organisations want to explore new fields of knowledge, assess what is at stake, and embrace them. The question is how to integrate this knowledge in a concrete way and put it to work so the organisation can reach new milestones.
As aforementioned, one answer is to anchor the new subjects in a context and facilitate the exchange between trainers and learners. Ultimately, it’s about developing an innate capacity to offer impactful training.
This requires access to experts who have a point of view, who can express themselves on specific subjects, and who are focused on areas of high competence.
Adult learning statistics in the EU
According to Eurostat’s labour force survey, which includes data on adult learning, in 2020, the share of people aged 25 to 64 in the EU who participated in education or training in the last four weeks preceding the survey was 9.2 %.
However, this share was 0.9 percentage points lower than the corresponding one for 2015 and 1.6 points lower compared to 2019. This decrease could be related to the COVID-19 pandemic due to the cancellation of onsite training activities.
Even so, some countries stood out. But before we get to that, let’s take a step back to give you some context.
The adult participation in learning was one of the benchmarks of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020) – a forum for Member States to exchange best practices and to learn from each other that ran until 2020. The benchmark aimed to reach an average of at least 15% of adults participating in lifelong learning in the EU.
Now, back to the good students, Sweden, Finland and Denmark reported higher proportions of their adult populations participating in lifelong learning, reaching 28.6%, 27.3% and 20% respectively.
Luxembourg also did quite well, with a 16.3% participation rate in 2020, exceeding the 15 % benchmark. This figure demonstrates the interest in continuous learning in the Grand Duchy is well present.
Managing skills is a balancing act
As we know, technological changes, an increased focus on sustainability matters, and the evolution of the job market itself, are leading to the emergence of new jobs roles, which, by default, require mastering new skills.
This leaves organisations facing a difficult balancing act, that is, the difficulty of recruiting the skills needed for tomorrow (and even today, already!) and their responsibility towards their existing talents that are becoming obsolete. So, what’s the recipe for success in this case?
Firstly, it’s important to look at the pools of skills within the organisation and uncover those that are being underutilised.
For instance, at PwC’s Academy, trainers invite leaders to identify the skills potential they have internally and the possibilities that exist to develop their talents so as to meet future market and societal needs. Training, through long-term support and coaching programmes, can help them achieve their full potential.
On the other hand, it’s essential, at each organisation’s level, to better value knowledge and knowledge sharing which can be achieved by promoting mobility and through mentoring. The end goal is to create greater cohesion and make organisations move beyond “silos” approach to promote transversality.
Case study: PwC’s Academy learning experience
Technology, the huge catalyst that makes competition fierce, and the ever-changing skills demand, propel training centres like PwC’s Academy to adapt and reinvent themselves constantly. Located in Luxembourg, this training centre is the oldest in the PwC global network.
“The academy”, as we call it familiarly, takes full advantage of its distinctive 20 years’ experience and of the unique expertise developed locally and internationally by PwC professionals to support its clients in their learning journeys, whether it be in terms of acquiring new skills or transforming and preparing teams for the future. In sum, it works as a pedagogic engineering platform that links clients and expertise.
What about PwC’s Academy trainers?
The wide majority of trainers are PwC professionals. They are subject matter experts in their respective field with the pedagogic know-how required to deliver engaging learning experiences.
In fact, the pedagogic approach developed by PwC’s Academy translates into audience specific thematic curricula—for instance regulatory and complianc—designed to provide a thorough and practical learning journey.
Depending on the needs that learners or organisations need to cover, all-around programmes can be put together instead of the single-topic courses that organisations typically resort to. This explains their slogan, “Learning designed for you”.
As this blog entry comes to an end, we are ending as it started, with a quote.
“Change is the end result of all true learning,” said the American author and motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia.
Isn’t that so true? While we need to keep learning to navigate this changing world, the ultimate goal of learning is to propel some sort of change too—in the world or within ourselves.
Today, work is no longer the final destination once the education journey has “ended”. Instead, we want to think of it as a continuation of a lifelong learning process.
The only thing we all can do—as educators, employers and learners—is to embrace it. And whilst we were writing these final words, David Bowie’s song aptly popped into our minds: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes / Turn and face the strange”.
What we think
We, at PwC’s Academy, want to take into account the learners’ expectations and to offer them the possibility to have constructive exchanges with specialists. It’s not just about the content; more importantly, it’s about offering learning experiences.