Learn. Work. Repeat. The Case For Lifelong Learning

Claudia Reiners
April 29, 2020

Learn. Work. Repeat. The Case For Lifelong Learning

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With digital disruption becoming the norm, new skills are necessary to meet the evolving business needs of the workforce. As a result of this, the learning needs of the workforce are constantly changing.

A recent report by Deloitte and RMIT Online entitled ‘Learn. Work. Repeat’ explores the concept of lifelong learning, and its growing importance in the ever-changing world of work.

From embracing self-directed learning to putting learning programs in action at workplaces, here’s how Australians can keep continuing education throughout their lives.

The case for lifelong learning

The traditional model of completing your higher education in your 20s, working for decades and retiring is quickly becoming outdated.

Australian jobs are changing, with new technologies and industry transformations meaning new knowledge is needed.

Australians are also living and working longer, meaning the formal education gained in their youth will likely need a refresh.

The recent shockwaves created by the COVID-19 outbreak further supports the importance of continuous learning, illustrating how quickly the needs of the economy can change.

Millions of people are suddenly having to deal with the challenges of working from home, or even finding themselves completely out of work.

A lifelong learning approach is needed to equip employees with the skills to excel throughout their careers, even in times of trouble.


of the employers surveyed in the report stated that they are struggling to find appropriately skilled employees, demonstrating plenty of room for professional development among Australian workers.

Interestingly, continuous learning is beneficial for both employers and employees.

Offering more than just personal growth for the employee, lifelong learning also improves an individual’s performance, job security and job satisfaction.

From increased earnings and a greater chance of promotion to receiving more diverse work opportunities, a commitment to ongoing learning proves to be highly rewarding for employees.

Employers also benefit from their employees learning skills on a consistent basis, allowing for greater innovation within the company.

95% of employers surveyed stated that they believed they would receive some benefits from their employees engaging in continuous learning, with two-thirds believing that these benefits are shared equally between the business and the individual employee.

Using informal learning as an example (such as an individual’s own learning efforts through listening to podcasts or watching YouTube videos), businesses are found to experience a 1% increase in productivity while employee wages rise by 0.5% after just one hour of learning.

So what skills should employees and employers be looking at cultivating, and how can this be done?

What skills should lifelong learners be cultivating?

As the world of work becomes increasingly automated, soft skills are becoming more important than ever.

In fact, it is estimated that two-thirds of Australian jobs will be soft-skill intensive by 2030.

According to the Deloitte report’s findings, 62% of employers identify leadership and problem-solving skills as being difficult to find.

53% of employers are also seeking creativity skills, while the latest industry knowledge is difficult for 53% of employers to find. Critical thinking, customer service and digital literacy are other vital skills lifelong learners should be looking at seriously.

How can businesses address these skill shortages?

Understandably, it is not realistic for everyone to re-enter the education system just to pick up new skills. Many employers are instead offering professional development opportunities in the workforce, with 85% of surveyed businesses providing internal and external training opportunities to address skill shortages.

Employers should foster a collective understanding of lifelong learning across the organisation, which can be done by:

  • Committing to adult learning in the workplace
  • Defining strategic goals for undertaking continuous training
  • Taking stock of existing skills and the changing skills demands
  • Ensuring the available learning opportunities meet the evolving needs of the business

What learning opportunities exist for employees?

There are also plenty of opportunities outside of the workplace for employees to pursue further training and education.

Lifelong learning can be informal or formal, with informal learning being self-organised and unstructured, and formal learning involving recognition from an educational institution or organisation.

Most lifelong learners prefer short courses to postgraduate degrees or professional accreditations, due to the shorter time frame and reduced cost.

The availability, diversity and quality of online learning make ongoing learning easier than ever, with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) providing open access to qualification and non-qualification based learning.

Lifelong learning is needed to create a resilient and responsive workforce, with both employees and employers benefiting from an investment in education and training.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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