Creating a culture of constant learning

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At a time when going to college, learning one career and staying at one job for 30 years is no longer the norm, continuing education is more useful than ever.

Taking advanced training courses, learning new skills and obtaining certifications help employees prosper in a highly competitive job market that is no longer bound by geography and traditional college degrees. Continuing education often leads to a more satisfying job. Satisfied employees are more engaged and productive, which benefits both the employees and their employers.

In this article we’ll look at the benefits of continuing education and how to promote it at the workplace.

What is Continuing Education?

Any time that you go back to school to learn something new that is not focused on earning a college degree you are continuing your education. Continuing education includes college courses, seminars, workshops, mentoring and certification programs. Most continuing education students are working professionals and older adults who already have earned a college degree and have had working experience.

Continuing education allows people to gain knowledge and develop professional and personal skills that are specific to their role or a role they desire, therefore enabling them to take the next step in their careers.

Why Continuing Education?

There are many reasons to pursue continuing education: career advancement, certification, job requirements, a promotion or salary increase, transitioning to another career, personal development, and more. Continuing education is a way to upskill, reskill and stay abreast of industry and technology advancements, as well as engage in lifelong learning or obtain additional education and training that may provide stability during uncertain times.

Benefits of Continuing Education

There are many reasons why employees should consider continuing their education and why employers should encourage them.

For Employees

1. Higher Pay

Educational attainment correlates with earning potential, so continuing education can help you grow your income.

2. Better Job Opportunities

When you apply for a job, you’re competing with people with more or less the same qualifications. Having extra education or certifications can help you stand out and beat the competition.

3. Favorable Connections

That old adage, it’s who you know, is still true today. When you step out of the box to pursue continuing education opportunities, you put yourself in a position to meet new people that are likely to have similar interests and/or goals. These connections can open new career opportunities and lead you to better jobs and higher pay, not to mention new friends.

4. Shorter Professional Ladder

New skills and credentials usually mean new responsibilities and roles that can result in promotions within or outside of your organization.

5. New Interests, New Horizons

Continuing education often exposes you to interesting subjects on the edge or outside of your chosen field, providing an opportunity to broaden your personal and professional horizons. You might even discover you have abilities and skills for a field you never explored before.

6. Creativity Boost

Learning more about a topic or about subjects outside your field introduces you to new concepts and new ways of thinking. As a result, you’re better able to think creatively and approach tasks and challenges in different, innovative ways.

For Employers

1. Improved Employee Performance

Continuing education helps employees develop existing skills and build new skills in familiar and unfamiliar areas of your operation. Upskilling and reskilling your employees generally improves their performance, which ultimately benefits your business.

2. Higher Engagement, Lower Turnover

Employees at companies that provide resources for continuing education feel more valued, which increases their engagement and loyalty to the company, thus reducing employee turnover.

3. Acquisition and Retention of Top Talent

Companies that provide continuing education opportunities typically are rated higher by job candidates and existing employees. Consequently, they’re more effective at attracting and retaining top talent than companies that do not support continuing education.

4. Build-Your-Own Leaders

Continuing education programs that are aligned to the strategic goals of a company and that provide leadership training for employees can build the leaders that will ensure the company’s success in the future.

5. Meet Skill Demand

If you lack employees with a particular skills set in your organization, why go out and seek new workers when you can upskill and reskill the ones you have? What you’re looking for in your employees could be right under your nose if you just give them an opportunity to learn.

How to Promote Continuing Education

Organizations can encourage and promote continuing education in a variety of ways.

  • Continuing education stipends
  • Certification incentives
  • Career mapping
  • Required learning time
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Peer-to-peer mentoring
  • Conferences, seminars and workshops
  • Participation in new projects
  • Internal continuing education (webinars, book clubs, etc.)
  • Custom ongoing learning activities

Bottom Line

Continuing education has numerous objectives and advantages that benefit employees and employers alike. Both groups need it to remain competitive in a tough job market. After all, gaining knowledge and skills never hurt an employee, and improving employee performance and engagement never hurt a company.

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