Ageism in the workplace? Remember lifelong education at all ages!
The latest data from the outplacement agency von Rundstedt shows that in Switzerland 33% of people who lost their jobs in 2018 were over 50. Among the 13 key trends that the company developed about the job market, they drew some interesting conclusions: the high cost of pension funds does not appear to be relevant and the challenges of an older workforce are exaggerated. As in the digitalswitzerland Top Talent report, low internal mobility in Switzerland is confirmed.
According to the Seco, the unemployment rate of the over 50s stands at 2.8% compared to 3.2% in 2017. They take 1.5 times longer than other age groups to find a new position and twice as long as the 15-24 year olds. 28% of the over 50s require social assistance. It begs the question whether respondents to the Rundstedt survey are looking at reality squarely in the face. It is also no wonder that the respondents consider that the decline in employee loyalty has risen to almost 80%.
As the next PISA results on school performance across countries will soon be published, it is worth thinking about the link between classical school curricula and innovative curricula and different generations’ ability to learn lifelong and to adapt to ever-changing conditions.
Early and lifelong education – preparing for curiosity and agility
Let’s assume that Switzerland’s mainstream education is based on principles that were developed decades ago, before technologies began to change the employment landscape. Let us also imagine that the Internet bubble of the 1990s represented a milestone in how the markets were changing. The over 50s were educated according to decade-old precepts, some still relevant and some not. As the market moves from competition to collaboration, how are the over 50s prepared to adapt to this paradigm shift? The only way to adapt is to carry on learning: bookish learning, practical learning, emotional learning, all round learning.
It is therefore no wonder that the OECD is looking at new ways of learning, that need to be embedded in the classroom and in lifelong learning, to keep young and old employable lifelong. The OECD classifies these new learnings in six main clusters: embodied learning (body, emotions and creativity); experiential learning; computational thinking; blended learning; gamification; and multi/critical literacies (e.g. languages). The organisation specifies that “We do not think they are effective or innovative in all circumstances as so much depends on engagement and professionalism, appropriate choices, and conducive contexts.”
And therein lies the key. Engagement and conducive contexts are core elements at any level of education, from early learning onwards. Teachers must be recognised for their achievements, and encouraged to learn throughout their own careers, evolve and innovate, through incentives and remuneration. Students should be encouraged to explore, interact with and adopt learning, in whichever manner best suits them. Parents should encourage new forms of learning by persuading teachers to create environments where children can experiment and test new methodologies and approaches. Organisations need to adopt all forms of learning and create conditions that are conducive to acquiring new skills and competencies at all stages of professional paths.
A multi-pronged effort
A comprehensive lifelong learning strategy will help guide learning paths. Good cooperation between different sectors and institutions is indispensable. Public investment in adult education and learning and basic skills is crucial for the future, to avoid ageism and ensure fair treatment of all players in the economy; development of non-formal adult education through legislation, institutional development and continuous financing is also needed. Like health prevention campaigns, a campaign to build awareness that people are responsible for their own lifelong education may be a good starting point.