Life used to be simpler, made up of three stages – childhood and adolescence, going to school and living at home, your adult life, working, raising a family, moving into your own home and finally retirement.  This worked socially, psychologically and economically for many people.

All of this has changed. In the past, people may have taken a course or trained in a specific career, such as accountancy or carpentry.  But today, it is common for people to have three or more, retraining several times as they move from one career to another.

Therefore, education no longer applies solely to young people.  We offer courses globally and are finding that more adults in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s are doing courses with us (and others) to start new careers and businesses.   

Awards systems and apprenticeships are often aimed solely at younger people leaving school and in early adulthood.  I am involved in some committees that help run such awards.  I have noticed though, that the definition of youth in some is under 23 years old, while others have crept up to under 35; pointing out that some people do not begin a career in their industry until 35 years of age.

Given how often people now want/need to change career, should awards and qualifications for people starting a new career not be age specific? Perhaps apprenticeships and courses should be for anyone who wants a new career.

Youth employment tends to be higher and Government predictions suggest that it could rise even further given the current situation with COVID-19.  

So, how do we take account of this higher youth unemployment? Young people used to be told to do a course and be guaranteed a job for life. That message is no longer true for many young people.  I hear many employers complain that inexperienced young people expect to start at the top.  This isn’t reality.  

Do we need to change our attitudes and way of learning? Are schools, colleges and universities giving unrealistic expectations to their students of what to expect in their first job?

We need to learn from the past and move into the future.

In the past, people expected to start at the bottom and work hard to move up the career ladder. Perhaps this is a value that we need to reinforce in education today.

Moving into the future, we also need to recognise that the world is changing.  The modern world changes on an almost daily basis and new skills and training are required in all jobs. Adults may wish to retrain or start a new business.

Education needs to become more flexible and relevant.

We all need to recognise two things. Learning and training is a lifelong process as people want to improve and/or change their careers. Secondly, that education and training should no longer be age specific but available to anyone who wants to learn something new. 

John Mason


ACS Distance Education

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