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Lifelong learning as the requirement of labour market

One of most often addressed issues – that result from the civilisational development and the scale of economic and social changes – was and still is lifelong learning which is conditioned by the access to information and knowledge. Ongoing technological progress causes the acquired skills and competences to get more and more often outdated. That results in a need of their constant completion and improvement.

In 2000 the European Commission approved a memorandum devoted to lifelong learning, in which they emphasized that it could not be limited only to the narrowly understood educational activity[1]. This form of education should become the main principle setting all directions associated with learning processes and contexts, in which they go.

Lifelong learning:

  • enables to acquire and constantly improve various kinds of skills and possessed qualifications, which begins already in the pre-school period and lasts for the entire life;
  • promotes development of knowledge and competences enabling individuals to adapt to the requirements of the knowledge society being formed;
  • allows active involvement in different spheres of social and economic life, and thanks to this, to form one’s own future;
  • gives value to all forms of education (formal, informal and non-formal learning).

In practice lifelong learning should mean that every person can set their individual learning path adapted to their current needs and interests.

The below presented instruments and initiatives aimed at increasing the recognisability of the acquired qualification and possessed skills and competences in the EU Member States serve to promote the idea of the lifelong learning. These are among others:

  • European Framework of Key Competences – distinguish fundamental competences which the individuals need in order to function in the times of the knowledge-based economy;
  • European Qualifications Framework for Life Long Learning – a tool that makes it easier for employers and individuals to recognise qualifications acquired in various European Union Member States;
  • European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for Vocational Education and Training – are aimed at increasing the transparency of the action taken by the EU Member States within the discussed scope;
  • European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) – used for recognition of study periods done outside the country;
  • European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) – enables to authenticate qualifications acquired by the individuals in the course of vocational training (both in the formal and informal aspect);
  • Europass – helps individuals to increase their chances on the labour market by offering opportunities to present their skills and classifications more clearly (European curriculum vitae template[2]);
  • National Academic Recognition Information Centrem (NARIC) – network of centres formed in order to establish a closer collaboration between the countries within the organization of the learning process on the higher level, recognisability of the acquired qualifications and academic titles for further career or academic purposes;
  • other instruments like e.g. Euroguidance network – project to promote the idea of the education and career counselling in the European dimension[3].

In Poland the issues associated with lifelong learning were addressed in the Lifelong Learning Development Strategy 2010 approved by the Council of Ministers on 8 July 2003[4]. It was defined as a ‘complex of educational processes: formal, informal and incidental, which irrespective of content, level and methods, enable to supplement school and out-of-school forms of education. Thanks to this adults develop their skills, enrich their knowledge, improve professional qualifications or acquire new profession, change their attitude’[5]. The majority of Polish specialists accept the UNESCO definition according to which lifelong learning refers to the entire school system and parallel education, adult education and environmental education [6].

On 4th February 2011 a draft of the concept paper Prospects of lifelong learning was published by the Interdepartmental Team for lifelong learning[7]. In accordance with these principles the policy for lifelong learning[8]:

  • promotes and supports the good quality of learning in every age, in different forms and places as well as recognises the effects of learning in the systems of qualification;
  • puts learners in the centre, and the measure of its effectiveness are competences and qualifications, irrespective of the way they were achieved;
  • is carried out under the partnership principle of the government, local self-government, employers, employees and civil organizations.

Public consultation lasted from 9th February to 2nd March 2011. At present the document is at the stage of interdepartmental arrangements.

In the times of the knowledge-based economy it is harder and harder to have the employment security in the same organization for the entire life[9], and thus such great significance is attributed to the lifelong learning, including diagnosing competences and qualifications essential to perform specific professions or forecast the demand for so-called ‘professions of tomorrow’.

According to simulations[10] carried out in the following years, there will be an increase in demand among others for:

  • network specialists,
  • information and communications technology specialist,
  • mechatronics specialists,
  • biotechnologists,
  • nanotechnologists,
  • representatives of professions related to human care and health care (e.g. male nurses, physiotherapists, plastic surgeons, dieticians etc.),
  • financial specialists and analysts,
  • instructors, coaches,
  • career advisors,
  • negotiators,
  • persons related to a widely understood show business.

Findings of the Foresight of the Modern Economy Staff (Foresight kadr nowoczesnej gospodarki) research indicate that part of the so-called ‘future professions’ will require to be educated in narrow specialties, while the other – to have necessary key competences and comprehensive knowledge[11].

Acquiring new knowledge and improving competence can occur in different conditions. Their competent use by individuals in connection with the possessed professional qualifications is one of the indicators of being successful on the labour market. Making often painful efforts is necessary to make the labour market more elastic and enable employees simple – and rather painless – transfer from one placement to another.

dr Anna Marszałek

[1] Cf. N. Longworth, Learning Cities, Learning Regions, Learning Communities. Lifelong Learning and Local Government, Routledge, London–New York 2006, p. 1.

[2] The application is available at Europass website (www.europass.org.pl) for free.

[3]  Q.v.: Euroguidance, http://www.euroguidance.pl/, [22.10.2011].

[4] Q.v. J. Półturzycki, Aktualność problemów edukacji ustawicznej, „e-mentor” 2006, No. 1, http://www.e-mentor.edu.pl/artykul/index/numer/13/id/244, [22.10.2011].

[5] Cf. Strategia rozwoju kształcenia ustawicznego do roku 2010, Ministerstwo Edukacji Narodowej i Sportu, Warszawa 2003.

[6] Cf. M. Pluta-Olearnik, Rozwój usług edukacyjnych w erze społeczeństwa informacyjnego, PWE, Warszawa 2006, p. 93.

[7] Cf. Perspektywa uczenia się przez całe życie, projekt dokumentu opracowany przez Międzyresortowy Zespół do spraw uczenia się przez całe życie, Warszawa, 4 February 2011.

[8] Ibidem, p. 5.

[9] „Średni cykl aktywności zawodowej osoby pracującej wynoszący około 40 lat jest średnio dwa razy dłuższy niż czas istnienia dużej firmy oraz siedmiokrotnie dłuższy niż przeciętny czas istnienia małej firmy”. Cf. P. Jedynak, Zarządzanie własnymi kompetencjami – przesłanki i egzemplifikacja, „Przegląd Organizacji” 2010, No. 1, p. 8.

[10] Por. Foresight kadr nowoczesnej gospodarki, raport pod red. K. B. Matusiaka, J. Kucińskiego, A. Gryzik, PARP, Warszawa 2009, s. 123–126, http://www.parp.gov.pl/files/74/81/305/5266.pdf, [22.10.2011].

[11] Ibidem.