When we think of learning, our minds automatically think about any person aged between four and 21. We associate education with the periods of our lives where we’re in school, college or higher education and anything on from there is simply viewed as ‘work’. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Learning can, and should, happen at any time in our lives, age is just a number and the ability to expand our horizons is infinite.
According to the Adult Participation in Learning Survey which is conducted annually by the Learning and Work Institute, nearly half (43 per cent) of UK adults – 22 million people – have taken part in extra learning because of the lockdowns and furlough scheme created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interestingly, over half (52 per cent) of the group surveyed were still in employment while undertaking additional education; 34 per cent were unemployed. Additionally, 42 per cent of full-time workers who were furloughed undertook extra learning. Clearly, from these findings, additional learning became a key driver in ensuring adults were both kept sane during times of intense isolation and/or that they felt secure in the knowledge that, if the worst-case scenario were to happen, that they would have additional skills and knowledge to take into a new role.
The past 18 months have, of course, been an anomaly to the ‘usual’ way in which the working world works but what it has shown us is that the need to continuously learn, train, upskill or perhaps even build up the confidence to take a leap of faith and do something completely different is crucial.
Nevertheless, post-COVID – when perhaps the extra time given by furlough is taken away or the threat of redundancy has dissipated – it may feel impossible to know how to balance work and life with extra learning, as not everyone has the time to log on to an online class after work. But here are a few ideas on where to start with your extra-curricular journey.
Read for pleasure
Education may conjure up pictures of piles of burdensome textbooks and dissertations, and while that may be necessary when undertaking a degree – not all learning has to be as heavy as that. If there is a topic or industry that particularly grabs your attention, look around to scout out easier-to-read titles that are just as informative but much easier to digest and enjoy those during your down time.
Even better yet, look for books that are a good mixture of words and images – we retain 80 per cent of what we see and 20 per cent of what we read. A mixture of the two is a recipe for success!
Add yourself to groups on social media
According to research by Ofcom, 86 per cent of adults use the internet and we spend, on average, just under four hours online each day. A fifth of this time per week is spent on social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter according to a further poll cited in The Independent.
Rather than spending this time aimlessly scrolling (we all do it!), explore whether there are potential groups, chats, or forums that you can join that cover a topic that you would like to learn more in. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time sharing your thoughts or opinions there, just absorbing the information given by others could give your learning the boost you’re looking for.
Ask your employer for advice
Sometimes, expanding your knowledge doesn’t necessarily mean you’re looking to train in a completely new area – it could be that you’re looking to simply broaden your current expertise.
If this is the case, then you may not need to squeeze extra learning in outside of the working day, it may be something your employer can help you do within the usual 9 to 5 routine. Explore potential opportunities with your line manager or team leader and put together a case for the opportunity to take up additional training courses; how will it benefit both you and the business you work for? The likelihood will be that your employer will be incredibly happy to support you as you showcase motivation, drive and initiative.
There’s no limit of learning. Whether you’re 21 or 71, there’s always time to pick up a new interest, begin another hobby or get some further experience under your belt. And as an adult, not only will further learning broaden your horizons, but it can also help with physical and mental health, give you a greater sense of satisfaction in life as well as keep cognitive decline at bay.