There is no standardised definition of lifelong learning. Over time and increasingly frequent use within the corporate and government sectors, lifelong learning has come to refer to learning that takes place outside of a formal educational institution. These institutions can be schools, tertiary institutions or in corporate settings. The intention of lifelong learning is focused on personal development that is self-initiated and sustained. Upskilling is the action used to describe individuals who are seeking to handle changes that are taking place within their career and lives.
Lifelong learning is important for many reasons. For an individual, it goes beyond increasing their employability. Learning is positively associated with an individual’s confidence in their own abilities regardless of age or educational qualifications. The practice of lifelong learning also increases our ability to deal with change, supporting our capacity to be active contributors to our communities.
Businesses are challenged to remain relevant to their customers in the current workplace. Changes in the workplace environment, addition of work scope and adoption of technologies and automation are common. However, an employee’s initial formal education can only take them so far. Employees are encouraged to keep up with the changes. This presents an opportunity for them to consider continued education to help them remain relevant and able to provide value to their employers.
There are many options available to support individuals’ in their quest for upskilling. These include taking a break from work to study full-time, attending external courses and workshops sponsored through the employer, or through SkillsFuture. SkillsFuture is our national movement to provide Singaporeans with the opportunities to develop their fullest potential throughout life, and encourages skills mastery and lifelong learning.
For many individuals that are starting their lifelong learning journey, SkillsFuture is the most pragmatic choice. The programmes are categorised by different life chapters, enhancing students’, as well as early and mid-career employees’ learning capabilities. Many of the activities can be paid for using SkillsFuture Credit, take place in formats that encourage networking with peers and do not have a bond/lock-in period (commonly associated with employer-provided resources).
In order to benefit from accessing these programmes, activities and resources from SkillsFuture, it is important for individuals to create an action plan. This can be a simple time-based step-by-step plan to identify interests and passions, goal setting and where and when to take on courses. With the action plan, it becomes easier to optimise between work and life schedules, while providing a goal to aim for.
It might seem daunting at the start scrolling through all the available courses and resources on the SkillsFuture website. A suggestion is to start with self-reflection. What were some goals that you have set in the past, and which did you achieve? Search for common themes that show a pattern of attention and interest. Perhaps it was about digital marketing or the environment and sustainability. Topics such as these are available under the SkillsFuture Series.
Another step to consider is to look for courses aligned with the individual’s current career chapter, for example, early- or mid-career. There are various programmes available, with some of them involving an employer engaging with the relevant government agency to others where the individual can apply with an Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) for courses that can earn certification, diplomas or degrees. Individuals should consider the opportunity cost of taking time out to study, cost of the activity, and to find an optimal timing to take the course.
Goal setting is a critical step in this process. Lifelong learning is a personal obligation in order to keep ahead of changes in an individual’s career journey. Learning and consuming knowledge without an end-goal can be detrimental from a resource (e.g. time and money) perspective . It can also be demoralising as it can result in no uplift to confidence or emotional achievement. Goals should be deeply personal, and serve as motivation that can drive an individual to commit to the action plan.
For those seeking more information about SkillsFuture, the SkillsFuture Advice (SFA) initiative was created to help more Singaporeans understand the importance of skills upgrading and career planning. SFA is a partnership and collaboration between SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), the Community Development Councils (CDCs), Workforce Singapore (WSG), People’s Association (PA) and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).
SkillsFuture Advice is a community outreach initiative that has reached out to over 120,000 Singaporeans in the past three years. SkillsFuture Advice workshops are conducted at the community level and seek to encourage more people to embark on their SkillsFuture journey.
By the end of the workshops, participants will receive information on key work trends and skills required for the workplace. They will also identify their job interests and develop their personal skills upgrading plan, as well as learn how to use MySkillsFuture at these workshops.
Individuals can find achievement and control of their personal and career obligations to themselves with lifelong learning. With SkillsFuture, they can enjoy doing so in both an efficient and practical way.