Lifelong learning and the future of work: challenges and opportunities

Our world is undergoing fundamental and disruptive change—technological, organizational, demographic, climatic—presenting new challenges to the future of work. These global mega-trends are having a profound impact on skills. Many of today’s skills won’t match tomorrow’s jobs. And skills acquired today may quickly become obsolete. The concept of lifelong learning has been around for decades and the ILO has adopted numerous normative instruments and policies related to lifelong learning. But the unprecedented transformation underway is redefining its terms and giving it new importance. “In the old days we could say let's go to school, get qualified for a job, enter the labour market and that's the job of learning done. We need people to learn how to learn because learning is going to be a feature of the transitions they're going to go through throughout their lives.” Lifelong Learning affects us all. It is central to managing the transitions we face over the life cycle, from early childhood and basic education to adult
learning and upskilling and reskilling to take advantage of change. It is a global concept applying to developed and developing economies. And it requires the active engagement and support of governments, employers and workers. How do we adapt lifelong learning to our new reality? There’s no one size fits all strategy. But there things we can do. Develop foundational and core work skills. Coherent and affordable financial and non-financial incentives. Improve vocational guidance and labour market data. Recognize both formal and informal skills learning. Improve coordination and ensure equitable access to learning. Today, there is renewed interest in lifelong learning. It’s a major goal of the United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development. And the Global Commission on the Future of Work has called for formal recognition of an entitlement to lifelong learning. Ultimately, lifelong learning is the key for people to be able to benefit from new ways of working. And it will light the path on our journey to a brighter future of work.

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