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Why organisations must think differently about learning and development

Julia Wright Julia Wright National Director of Campaign for Learning

The following article was originally published by Northern Insight in May 2023.

With AI and automation already impacting our working lives, Julia Wright, National Director at the social inclusion organisation Campaign for Learning, marks Learning at Work Week by discussing why it’s more important than ever for employers and employees to have a new perspective on learning. 

With the release of ChatGPT and real-time insight into its capabilities, it’s not surprising that automation and its impact on work and jobs is a big talking point.  

Whilst automation has been with us for thousands of years, the rise of intelligent automation, powered by Artificial Intelligence, means the inevitable redesign of work and tasks that have previously been solely a human domain.  

Goldman Sachs’s new report lays out the scale and nature of the predicted impact, with two-thirds of jobs in Europe likely to be open to some degree of automation.  

On the BBC’s The Compass podcast, Daniel Susskind notes some of the barriers to people taking up new jobs when theirs have been lost to automation. As well as skills and place barriers, individuals’ own concept of themselves was important too. People would wait until the right job came up to protect their identity – who they think they are. 

Lifelong learning is seen as the answer to the ‘megatrends’ we face, including the rapid technological change from intelligent automation. Continual development will help us learn, unlearn, reskill and upskill to meet new demands, so we can adapt and shift into new work or different roles throughout our lives. 

But our identity and who we think we are can affect our attitudes towards learning too. People may not take up learning opportunities because they don’t identify as learners or think learning isn’t for them, which creates an additional barrier to change. 

As one person who didn’t take up development opportunities until their mid-40s said to Campaign for Learning, “Learning was for those people over there, not for me.” 

Emotional and practical barriers to learning can inhibit people changing the course of their lives and thinking of themselves in a different future. 

For people to successfully take on new responsibilities at work and ensure there’s an inclusive and equitable distribution of benefits and opportunities from technological change, it will be crucial that they have the space, the reasons, and support to explore their beliefs around learning and work. 

From our experience at Campaign for Learning, there are three ways of thinking that can help us all reimagine our futures and realign with new technological realities: 

  • Thinking of ourselves as learners with the concept of ‘learning’ being about much more than passing or failing tests – to overcome a narrow view of learning and any negative experiences of education. 
  • Understanding skills and abilities in the positive, including non-formalised abilities – focusing on what we can already do rather than what we can’t, and building our learner identity from this. 
  • Changing the way we understand jobs – not as a fixed package but a collection of tasks that may change over time. Tasks that we can learn as transformation happens and get better at. 

This month, companies and organisations across the UK will take part in Learning at Work Week. Coordinated by Campaign for Learning, part of the educational charity NCFE, it's a dedicated celebration highlighting the importance of continual learning and development.  

The week encourages creative, inclusive, and collaborative approaches to learning at work with activities designed to address barriers, provide different perspectives to learning, and promote internal mobility.  

These include short tasters that build positive learning experiences, hands-on experience of new technology, internal career and coaching conversations, and opportunities for colleagues to hear from peers and people ‘like me’ who have succeeded through learning. 

In 2023, the theme ‘Create the Future’ includes a focus on creating private and social spaces where we can explore lifelong learning and what it means to us personally and in our work communities. Our previous award winners show how creating a dedicated space for learning makes a real difference. 

With ChatGPT and AI only set to grow over the coming years, it’s become more important than ever for employees and employers to keep pace with the increased rate of change. The time to start thinking about learning really is now. 

With ChatGPT and AI only set to grow over the coming years, it’s become more important than ever for employees and employers to keep pace with the increased rate of change.

Julia Wright, National Director of Campaign for Learning

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