Theme 4) Lifelong learning for living

A city that values lifelong learning -> learning for living, not just for working

One of the recent high profile policy shifts in recent years is the monetarisation of education -> the idea that the learner pays for the costs of a narrow set of skills for the jobs market. Being educated, or learning for the love of it, it seems is something reserved for an affluent few. Furthermore, training and development budgets are vulnerable in an era of austerity as firms seek to poach talent from elsewhere rather than develop it themselves. In a supposedly high skills economy, neither employer nor the state seem willing to bear the burden. Instead, an indebted citizen bears the load.


Problems specific to Cambridge 

  • We don’t have a ‘big picture’ view of what’s on offer in the city. This means that not only can people not find what they are looking for, but also that we do not know what gaps there may be in lifelong learning in the city
  • Employers undervalue the transferrable skills from lifelong learning, meaning that people focus on training that provides business skills, often at the expense of creativity. On a digital level, they frequently create policies for staff but do not back this up with the necessary guidance and training. This requires a massive cultural change that Cambridge’s employers at the moment are nowhere near prepared for.
  • Cambridge’s picture on all things digital is fragmenting. At one corner we have some extremely talented developers, while in another, there are people who cannot access the internet. There are those that choose not to engage with anything digital, while there are others that would like to learn more (including myself) but the learning and training offer from the city simply is not there to meet our needs
  • The attitude of employers that I’ve met at recent large conferences and gatherings all too often is around getting young people to learn skills that businesses need, rather than businesses learning from young people about the new skills they are learning ‘for fun’ that are now becoming essential in the world of business. No consideration is given to the skills young people have that businesses do not. This too requires a massive cultural change.

I first blogged about the unintended consequences of cuts to adult education in 2012 – see here. My view is that a ‘learning for living’ theme can help make Cambridge a nicer place to live in. This is because courses – in particular recreational courses and events bring people together. They also bring people together who might otherwise not meet each other – thus strengthening communities of interest. This is vital given the number and size of new housing developments in and around Cambridge.

This is not a standalone theme. It requires action on access to public and community buildings (see theme 7), as well as civic responsibility from our large institutions (see theme 5) amongst others. Mindful of all things ‘digital, dynamic and passionate’, I’ve also previously blogged about what learning about all things digital in the community might look like – see here. This is because my feeling is learning opportunities are far too fragmented and costly. For example on the creative side I’d love to see things that can get people doing things like this:

Or how about a ‘late starters orchestra’ for adults, similar to the one they have in East London? (See here).

My proposals

  • Piloting a skills audit of the city, funded by business contributions
  • Linking strong existing themes (such as on all things sustainability) to courses and groups that inspire and organise actions – such as Cambridge Carbon Footprint (see here) and Transition Cambridge (see here)
  • An activities fair, bringing providers and residents together en masse to inspire people and get the city active and learning
  • A ‘digital skills plan’ for Cambridge following the skills audit to give people and employers the skills and awareness on all things digital
  • A pledge by large employers to pay for basic social media training for their staff – especially on staying safe online
  • Scientists in Cambridge to get together and make what I’ve put in this blogpost on science learning in the community happen.
  • More support and spaces for more informal learning
  • More co-ordination and collaboration between trainers, training providers and publicity outlets – ensuring that the city is covered geographically and accessibility-wise
  • A much-improved resource on bringing together, searching, finding and booking courses that doesn’t require going to lots of different websites
  • Developing different learning themes that bring together opportunities around different learning areas. For example a healthy living theme might have one around basic healthy cooking, and exercise
  • Events showcasing what learners have achieved – music performances, art exhibitions, dance shows being just a few examples.

One thought on “Theme 4) Lifelong learning for living

  1. *climbs onto soap box* Part of the problem here is that the Labour Party shifted funding away from the academic onto vocational subjects. This has remained the stance of govt so that, as you say, unless you are wealthy and can afford to pay several thousand a term, you are unable to study anything other than Maths or English. The CRC used to offer quite range of A levels but only does now for overseas students. People still think this is possible though but it isn’t or I’d be on one of those courses. *gets off soap box*

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