Way back in the mists of time there was a concept called ‘Lifelong Learning’. The premise was simple, you were never too old to learn, and there was value in learning even after you had crossed the threshold into adulthood (around 50 in my case).

The problem was that politicians and the powers that be noticed one too many Origami classes celebrating their 5th class reunion and decided we should focus on the young: which is a Good Thing.

That was married to the concept of that once they could read and write and add up then adults had all the skills they needed to sign up for an Adult Learning Loan and work out how much they would need to repay for their developed skills. Fine - except the idea isn’t working.

Those same thought processes led to a belief that employers should contribute towards skills development. I agree; you might too. Then you’ll take a look at your full cost recovery income, and sigh.

While you’re in research mode you might take a look at labour demand in your local LEP. I bet you a firkin* of ale that the ambition for new jobs is overshadowed many times over by the replacement demand for existing jobs as a generation retires.

Now, we are NOT going to get into an argument about Brexit here, but between that decision and the fact that we recently barred a group of 50 qualified doctors because ‘we had met our quota for skilled people’ we are clearly not going to make up the replacement gap from the fabled lands beyond our borders. Now, that suggests we have a major retraining programme on our hands. Then you add in the facts that skills change, automation displaces and generally, change happens.

Investment in adult workers retraining and upskilling, is just that, investment.

Someone has to ensure this happens and, if the big picture need isn’t being resolved by individual actor decisions, be they employers or individuals, then it is time to change the current policy and fund adult reskilling.

Otherwise we will all be poorer as we lose out on the benefits to the individual, to the economy and to society in general that comes from a genuine commitment to Lifelong Learning.

It’s time to re-focus on the grown-ups.

Peter Ryder, Company Director of Rockborn Management Consultants

*Firkin = 9 gallons – you’re never too old to learn something new.

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