Lifelong learning: a fundamental change of mindset to successfully navigate the fourth industrial revolution

The digital revolution demands new professional profiles, but it also offers a change of speed within the training field. Those who would rather miss this boat will be condemned to remain digitally obsolete, says Pablo Rivas

From a social and productive perspective, technology has turned our world upside down. All progress transforms reality. To stay ahead of its competitors, companies must adapt to these changes and keep up with the speed at which technology develops to optimise processes, obtain significant advantages, thrive in a globalised market, and to overcome the current crisis caused by Covid-19. Many companies have been unable to adapt and integrate digital transformation processes into their obsolete organisational structures and have, therefore, had to surrender.

Requirements versus responsibilities

The gap between companies’ requirements and professionals’ responsibilities must be addressed with more education and a total change of mindset: we must never stop learning. We were all educated in the third industrial revolution. Therefore, if we are to adapt to the professional market successfully and avoid suffering the consequences of unemployment, we must learn how to update our knowledge frequently, which is also known as lifelong learning. Technology develops, new business models arise, jobs disappear, others are automated, and many companies – even established companies – are struggling to survive.

One characteristic of this crisis is the total breakdown of economic and social models as we know them. Integrating a lifelong learning and evolutive process is as relevant as other habits we have incorporated in our daily routine naturally. If only we could understand life as the perfect opportunity for continual learning, we would avoid future risks that represent cumbersome challenges for many of today’s professionals whose education will become obsolete in the short term.

Furthermore, having many professionals engaged in a lifelong learning process contributes to eliminating the gaps and distance between generations. Thus, not all apprentices will be young, not all executives will be at the turning point of their professional careers, and not all veterans will be forced to retire. People will keep aging, and birth rate graphics will continue to decrease alarmingly. Hence, it is logical for us to believe that the length of professional careers will increase, which will inevitably lead us to update our knowledge if we wish to remain relevant.

Fortunately, we may soon be unable to recall companies that rely exclusively on young people, compete with one another, and dismiss those who are seemingly less productive because of their age. Companies will experience intergenerational progress, where relationships between the younger and older professionals represent a quotidian and rewarding asset. We will witness how several generations endeavour to update their insights continuously.

Framework design

The Covid-19 crisis and the lessons we have learned over the years have underscored the importance of framework design, the establishment of a bond and commitment between employees and employers, physical presence, international mobility, and training and employment policies. As a result, the urge to innovate has become core in the fourth industrial revolution and a conveyor belt for the digital economy. The technological developments witnessed so far are nothing compared to the challenges that the next decade will bring. In the coming years, we will see advancements in AI, automation, robotics, as well as a host of other technologies. These technological developments come with the possibility of incredible societal benefits as well as limitations and disadvantages.  

In the new professional and economic paradigm, education cannot be seen as a straightforward path (in which going to school marks the beginning and graduating university marks the end) that we need to complete before furthering our professional career within a certain field. Forget it. That mindset is a thing of the past, and things will never go back to the way they were. Technological innovation and the incorporation of new hardware and software developments into different departments drives companies to demand professionals who possess the kind of updated knowledge and skills that will allow them to face new challenges that threaten industries. As there are a number of educational opportunities available, each professional should know what field to specialise in to avoid being made redundant throughout the different stages of their professional careers.

However, this lifelong learning process cannot constitute a hindrance to the employee’s professional development. In other words, the process of updating knowledge should not interfere with their job. Learning should be compatible with working. Only digital learning enables this due to the infinite advantages that they offer, such as flexibility and enrolment cost reduction, constant review and update of contents, personalised monitoring, organised group activities among participants who share similar interests, and the possibility to self-evaluate.

The role of digital education

High-quality digital education provides robust education programmes and quality data in terms of concentration and interaction rates, compared to traditional teaching methods. It also tackles certain burdens such as physical, geographical, and linguistic constraints. To everyone’s benefit, knowledge is no longer limited to a certain space. Some of the best universities in the world already offer postgraduate programmes that enable professionals to complement and adapt their skills to the requirements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution without having to attend a single in-person lecture, let alone commute to school.

The digital revolution demands new professional profiles, but it also offers a change of speed within the training field. Employees, executives, and society need to understand and accept that we will always remain in a lifelong learning process, and that the fourth industrial revolution demands professionals who are updating their knowledge continuously. Those who would rather miss this boat will be condemned to remain digitally obsolete.

Pablo Rivas is CEO and Founder of Global Alumni, the first Euro-American EdTech whose mission is to enable universities around the world to achieve digital transformation and to optimise professionals’ skills to face the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Pablo Rivas, Expert in Digital Education, has recently published his first book, ‘Learning to Unlearn: Transforming Higher Education’.

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