All the companies in digitalswitzerland’s Top Talent interviews and survey believe that lifelong learning is a critical success factor. According to the interviewees, as skills requirements change in the course of digitalisation, talents need to invest in learning skills and leadership.

Switzerland’s Federal Act on Continuing Education and Training

The continuing education and adult training market in Switzerland is heterogeneous and mostly funded and organised privately. The first national law which regulates continuing education and training as a legal framework came into force in 2017 and regulates the entire non-formal continuing education and training sector. Even though this law exists, funding does not cover all the needs, notably of private persons who seek to reskill. While the regional placement offices may offer some requalification support, lifelong education goes beyond requalification; it is the will to learn and upskill continuously.

Learn or die

According to Mercer’s Global Career Trends report, “Organisations are in a new “Learn or die” environment where everyone must accelerate their learning to remain relevant.” Technology has facilitated access to learning opportunities, whether external or in-company, through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), Learning Management Systems (LMS) and mobile microlearning. However, it is not enough to learn; employers need to ensure that learners can apply the learning and build new skills.

Shared responsibilities

Respondents to our survey underline the employee’s responsibility to learn continuously and invest in such skills. At the same time, organisations should provide talented employees with a broad set of learning opportunities, ranging from online courses and secondments to business case assessments. Selected talents can also benefit from executive mentorship. Lifelong learning opportunities are perceived as an essential tool for any organisation to attract and retain top talents. To achieve this, some of the respondents suggest the need for a shift in organisational culture: rather than understanding education and learning programmes in terms of workload loss, they should be understood as an investment in the sustainable productivity of their workforce. With the availability of digital learning applications, talent development programmes are tailored according to the individual preferences and competencies of employees.

Older employees

In the qualitative interviews we heard that employers notices that people stop learning at a certain age, which may indicate that companies stop investing in lifelong learning for older employees. Older employees will need to ensure that they also keep up to date with technologies, trends and practices, to remain employable as long as possible. Interestingly, already in 2006 the Cedefop noted that “for lifelong learning to become a reality for older workers, ordinary workplaces must become primary places of learning.” And furthermore that “a strong learning culture in the workplace makes employees more receptive to change, regardless of age.”

A joint effort

The demographic challenge will affect all walks of life: lifelong learning and training measures that anticipate people’s needs in the different phases of their lives need to be put in place in all workplaces. This calls for cooperation between the actors in the economy – governments, employers, employees, institutions, training providers – all working closely together.