Collaboration in Lifelong Learning Can Turn Midlife Crossroads into Significant Milestones


Collaboration in Lifelong Learning Can Turn Midlife Crossroads into Significant Milestones

Collaboration in Lifelong Learning Can Turn Midlife Crossroads into Significant Milestones


Imagine a world where mid-career transitions are not dreaded crossroads but exciting springboards for reinvention and growth. A world where seasoned professionals, instead of feeling lost in the whirlwind of today's technological advancements and seismic socio-economic shifts, are empowered to navigate this new landscape. This leads them to answer the questions echoing in their minds: "How do I thrive in this evolving world?" or "Where do I begin my journey of upskilling or transition?"

Amidst growing concerns over career transitions and skills obsolescence, particularly in mid-career or middle-aged professionals in their forties and fifties who have weathered their careers in a single trajectory since completing their education, the call for lifelong learning rings louder than ever. These individuals grapple with the challenge of local and global competition and the possibility of irrelevance in an ever-evolving job market.

Yet, let us pivot our perspective. This period is not the harbinger of a "midlife crisis" but a gateway to adapting, reinventing, and thriving in the future.

In this year’s Budget 2024, the Singapore Government prioritises upskilling and lifelong learning. The S$4,000 SkillsFuture Credit top-up, under the new SkillsFuture Level-Up programme, will provide greater financial support for Singaporeans aged 40 and above looking to pursue a skill reboot, alongside a training allowance of up to S$3,000 training allowance each month for selected full-time courses.

In addition, Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduates under 30 who will be enrolled in a diploma programme will get a S$5,000 top-up to their Post-Secondary Education Account, plus a S$10,000 top-up to their Central Provident Fund (CPF) Ordinary account upon diploma completion.

The message is clear: learn and upgrade or risk being irrelevant in your skill competency. As highlighted during the Committee of Supply debates, lifelong learning is a cornerstone of Singapore's social compact. The linchpin of success rests on collaboration across sectors and not just financial and foundational support, involving the government, industry and educational stakeholders, such as the Institute for Adult Learning (IAL) and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL), to develop a holistic approach to lifelong learning.

A multi-sectoral effort is needed to catalyse lifelong learning success

Creating a conducive environment for continuous learning transcends the workplace, and employers must champion flexible arrangements, study leaves and opportunities for workplace application of new skills. This investment in human capital does not detract from a company's profitability performance but enhances it as employees are motivated to perform better having been trained to have current, upgraded skill sets, fostering a win-win scenario. Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) are another crucial puzzle piece. Having a unified approach among IHLs to craft comprehensive, industry-aligned programmes ensures education keeps pace with sector-specific demands.

Additionally, cross-institutional credits and qualification recognition bolster adult learners' journeys, boosting education pathway flexibility and accessibility. Such initiatives empower learners for today's dynamic job market, bolstering Singapore's economic resilience and innovation.

Teamwork makes the dream work

The envisioned collaborative ecosystem, a blend of government policy, strong corporate support, and educational innovation, is not merely a strategic blueprint but a rallying cry for all stakeholders to dismantle the barriers to lifelong learning. For example, at IAL, we have seen the power of collaboration first-hand. Partnering with various organisations and IHLs, we have driven impactful workplace learning initiatives and introduced accelerated training pathways to advance careers. Our research initiatives serve as a platform for businesses, policy think tanks and academia to address adult learning challenges and forecast future needs. These collaborative efforts have propelled us and key Training and Adult Education (TAE) members to significantly contribute to adult education and workforce development.

Why adult educators are crucial for the collaborative success

While collaboration across sectors forms the bedrock of a robust lifelong learning ecosystem, its success also hinges on the expertise and dedication of adult educators. They act as guiding lights for individuals navigating this crucial stage of their professional journeys, ensuring they receive effective instruction, tailored support, and the tools to confidently navigate the ever-evolving world of work.

For example, IAL’s work in training the trainers — the adult educators — equips them with the right skills to curate training strategies to fit adult learners’ unique requirements and align curricula with industry demands, both are essential to effectively engage mid-career professionals. This underscores IAL’s commitment to continually develop and enhance our programmes, ensuring that adult educators stay abreast of current trends and improve the learning experience.

The necessity for educational institutions to collaborate becomes increasingly evident as training needs evolve rapidly. We can address these challenges head-on by sharing resources, co-developing curricula, tapping into specialised expertise, and building strong networks and partnerships. With Singapore's Budget 2024 initiatives setting the stage, the synergistic effort among employers, educational bodies, and the government is critical.

Such a collective push is poised to cultivate a dynamic ecosystem for lifelong learning, propelling career growth and affirming Singapore’s global competitive edge.

Embracing lifelong learning empowers us all to thrive in a world of constant change. This collaborative spirit fosters a vibrant ecosystem where individuals can continuously upskill and reposition their careers, transforming mid-career transitions from hurdles to springboards for continued growth.

Together, let us champion lifelong learning and design a future brimming with possibilities for all.
Authored by Associate Professor (Practice) Yeo Li Pheow, Executive Director, Institute for Adult Learning

A translated copy of the commentary is carried in Lianhe Zaobao on 26 April 2024.