If work is changing, we need more adult education

Many countries need to urgently scale-up and upgrade their adult leaning to help people adapt to the future world of work, according to a new OECD report.

With a crisis in adult higher education across many EU Member States that is not confined to specialist institutions, opportunities for adults to continue learning and acquiring skills have met mounting challenges, such as a decrease in state funding and an increasing focus on school leavers, along with rising fees in those countries going further down the path of privatisation of higher education. While efforts to widen participation are concentrated on the younger section of the population known as early school leavers, part-time mature students are finding it increasingly difficult to engage in learning.

There are  examples of commitment to lifelong learning in Europe, however, such as Austria and Germany where vocational education is known for its high standards and public investment, in stark contrast with the weakening of funding for the vocational education sector in the United Kingdom for instance.

This month, the OECD’s report Getting Skills Right: Future-Ready Adult Learning Systems highlighted the extent to which new technologies, demographics and globalisation will challenge future policy-makers and workers. Robotics and artificial intelligence will be an issue for white collar jobs just as they were for their blue collar equivalents in the recent past. Furthermore, an aging population translates into possible longer working hours, while continuous learning is deemed vital for minimising the risk of exclusion from work and society. 

The OECD analysis suggests that only about one in seven jobs is at risk of full automation, while another 30% is predicted to be overhauled. However, people in the jobs most at risk also do less training (40%) than workers with jobs at low risk (59%), and the report underlines the need to have good quality training to acquire skills that will also match labour market needs. 

These challenges call for serious investment from Member States, employers, higher and further education and individuals alike. SOLIDAR Foundation also highlights the need to further support civil society organisations working in the field to bridge the gap between formal and non-formal education providers in helping provide rich information about effective intervention for disadvantaged or discriminated groups and include good practices for migrants, refugees, minorities and those that at  risk of marginalisation. 

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