Lifelong learning is the new buzz phrase among those curious about the future of work. In the UAE, universities are deploying initiatives to ensure students initiate a self-development mindset so they continue to learn and engage in their chosen professions much after exiting conventional classroom environments and stay prepped for the future of work.
In fact, some stakeholders are of the opinion that lifelong learning was trending even earlier, much before it became the buzzword it is today.
Professor Tadhg O'Donovan, Deputy Vice Principal, Academic Leadership, and Head of School of Engineering & Physical Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, is emphatic about this for instance when elaborating on the role of lifelong learning in the future of work.
Strengthening problem solving
“Lifelong learning has always been a key attribute of success in any field,” says Prof. O’Donovan. “Currently, it has assumed an even greater importance as we are witnessing dynamic changes to the way we live and work. Today, learning is a tool of resilience and adaptability. Another aspect of learning that is not widely discussed is the way it gives rise to strengthening one’s problem-solving and critical thinking skills, two of the most demanded soft skills in today’s market.
Another aspect of learning that is not widely discussed is the way it gives rise to strengthening one’s problem-solving and critical thinking skills, two of the most demanded soft skills in today’s market
“Learning encourages one’s ability to remain sharp, dynamic, and thus more able to assess and review matters from multiple perspectives. Information accumulated can also be a good source to draw from once attempting to resolve a certain issue.”
Hanil Das, Co-Founder and CEO, Westford University College, draws attention to the critical role the fourth industrial revolution plays in the future of work, and where lifelong learning he says is not an option but a necessity.
“We are in the 4th industry revolution, and one of the main factors that’s driving productivity and growth is Continuous Lifelong Learning,” says Das. Drawing attention to the benefits that his University provides in this regard, he adds, “Westford is built on this very principle, to provide the platform to upgrade and upskill one’s knowledge and learning. Westford offers programs that centres on one’s professional growth while not compromising the work life. Our Management Development Program (MDP) and Professional Development Programs (PDP) and programmes focused on Upskilling. Whereas the MBA and DBA specializations are focused on Upgrading one’s educational qualification.
We are in the 4th industry revolution, and one of the main factors that’s driving productivity and growth is Continuous Lifelong Learning. Westford is built on this very principle, to provide the platform to upgrade and upskill one’s knowledge and learning
“At Westford we understand that, with the corporate world evolving, the workforce will value employees who have a quest for learning and are investing to upgrade oneself. Professionals who are continuously enhancing their education will be perceived to be more adaptable, agile and will make better leaders. Hence, Westford offers the right platform for lifelong learning without compromising on work or life.
Prof. O’Donovan seconds the assessment made by Das, and states that his wards at HWU are trained to see the ability for lifelong learning as a key skill, and ensures this is achieved through the University’s teaching approach.
Initiatives promoting lifelong learning
“We value experiential learning and learning by doing outside of the traditional lecture theatre in our workshops, studios, innovation hub and enterprise centre. Through our various outreach programmes, both our existing and prospective students can also engage in activities such as Engineer for a Day where the aim is to give students a feel of being an engineer in real life.”
Highlighting select initiatives that HWU undertook to instill lifelong learning among its students, Prof. O’Donovan says, “We also recently organised the Townhall series in partnership with Kaplan Professional ME, for students who are interested in learning about HWUD’s Finance and Accounting programmes.
"Most importantly, we offer Heriot-Watt Online Learning, which enable students to study an MSc or MBA. These programmes are academically equivalent to on-campus programmes and are designed with the flexibility required for students to study at their own pace and in keeping with their personal commitments.”
Westford, on its part also offers students unique learning experiences that continue to evolve with them, says Das. “We offer flexibility in classes, accessibility to connect and affordability so that money never limits your professional growth.
“Westford has various initiatives to engage students, and alumni members to be lifelong learners. Our Westford Mentorship Program provides a platform for bachelor and masters students and alumni to hone leadership and mentoring skills, our Westford Youth Business Leadership Program (YBLP) is another platform where youth around the world can connect and learn from leaders of different domain.”