Don’t forget to make the most of Learning at Work Day. It’s a chance to grasp the importance of lifelong learning, the vital approach today if you are to stay ahead of the game or even just keep your job in a constantly changing business environment says Sarah Dowding Learn to become fit for the future Lifelong learning sounds like a daunting concept, especially if you’re fresh out of the education system. But it is not an oppressive duty going on and on. A commitment to lifelong learning is what you need if you are going to reach the top in your chosen career or even merely retain your current job. Leading Edge members seem to be taking this message on board, but are they taking responsibility for their own development or relying on their company’s efforts? Last year, our Leading Edge questionnaire found 98% of members expect to carry on learning ­ through training, courses and personal development as part of their career. But only 59.6% think their career development is their own responsibility rather than their employers’. The idea of developing your own portfolio of transferable skills is becoming more important in a fiercely competitive job market. Although it helps to work for an organisation that actively supports lifelong learning, the responsibility lies with employees to make sure they are continuously improving their skills. Not surprisingly, a MORI poll showed 77% of people would prefer to work for an employer supportive of them learning throughout their career. Although companies are becoming increasingly aware that adopting a lifelong learning culture helps retain the best people, a national Learning at Work campaign has been set up to raise the profile of lifelong learning and its benefits for companies as well as employees. This year’s Learning at Work Day takes place on Thursday May 25. The initiative aims to highlight the benefits of adopting lifelong learning for individuals as well as businesses. Independent research has shown people actively learning tend to feel better about themselves and their health, are more active and self confident. Research also shows: “As well as bottom line rewards, organisations also benefit from increased employee motivation and retention, greater competitive advantage, and the ability to manage change.” The Learning at Work Day sees thousands of learning activities in workplaces all over the country ­ encouraging and motivating individuals to take part in an enjoyable learning activity. Ultimately the campaign hopes to inspire employees and companies to adopt an attitude of lifelong learning to maintain their competitive edge More than 1,000 organisations were involved in last year’s campaign. Even chief executives got into the spirit, taking part in back to the floor’ style job swaps as part of the initiative. This year the scenario is a little different. Senior management are being asked to allow junior employees to shadow them for a day so they can discover whether it really is tough at the top’ and worth the hard climb up the career ladder. But job swapping should not be restricted to just chief executives. A recent survey found 84% of people would like to swap jobs for the day. The internet not only provides sources of information about how to adopt lifelong learning, there are also a large number of distance learning courses available. E-learning is expanding as companies limit their costs and employees find they have less time to attend traditional courses. However, according to Sally O’Reilly of Personnel Today: “The internet and intranets have been rapidly adopted as channels for delivering IT and technical training, yet soft skills development has proved more problematic.” And the huge costs associated with a bespoke learning system means they are mainly used by large organisations. But despite these costs, it has been estimated 40% of staff development will take place online by 2002. Lifelong learning is not about going on a course, whether online or in the traditional sense. It is about commitment. Of course, it helps if your boss supports your learning, but the responsibility for your own development is up to you. So get learning if you want to keep your leading edge! l To get involved in this year’s Learning at Work day, why not click on the website for more information: {{LEADING EDGE }}