Exploring the impact of living longer has taken me in many directions and highlighted much that has yet to happen. One particular passion is education – where changes have already started – with gusto – and there are plenty more to come, but the potential benefits are enormous.   If we can help our children ‘get it right’ then they have the opportunity to make the most of a much longer and healthier life than any generation before them.

 Part of this preparation includes giving them a set of ‘life skills’ that have not previously formed part of the school curriculum. These include:

  • Life long learning
  • Fit for life
  • Long term financial planning
  • Networking and managing relationships
  • Technical literacy

Life long leaning (sometimes called independent learning) recognises that working lives are extending to 70+ years and, with technological change continuing to accelerate, it is unrealistic to expect school alone to be able to equip our children with the skills they will need for success over the long term. Independent learning is about teaching them to find their own solutions. Most professional bodies and many businesses recognize the need for  this and have set standards for Continuing Professional Development. Yet this is just the start.

I believe that children today should plan for multiple careers during their lives that will be interspersed with periods of retraining, reskilling and reinvention. To a limited extent this is already happening – Tesco and B&Q are two businesses that have targeted those above normal retirement age. With the added benefit of bringing a diverse set of life skills from their earlier careers they have shown just how well they are able to relate to customers.   These businesses recognised early that there are an increasing number of people post retirement that are both fit and well and eager to work and also need to supplement their State pension.  I have encountered professionals who in their early 50s have decided that they have had enough of their ‘first career’ and, without the demands of children and mortgages, have transitioned to something completely different, something they expect to do for the next 30 years.

As life expectancy increases I anticipate that this pioneering activity to be ‘institutionalised’ and schools will have a central role. When not teaching the young the classrooms, buildings and possibly the staff will have different students engaged in a very different type of learning. Reinventing yourself in the future will, thanks to the internet, require considerable personal study with school building being used for group discussions, team work, access to specialized equipment and face to face meetings.

In this blog I have taken a ‘peek’ over the parapet and looked at one narrow aspect of what is happening all around us – no matter which way you look – our future is exciting!

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Written by John Small

John’s business career started in the technology sector working with ICL and Fujitsu before moving to International Finance where organisational change and development has been a constant theme.