THE BLOG
03/06/2015 05:48 BST | Updated 29/05/2016 06:59 BST

Back to School: The Importance of Adult Learning

If you have ever considered studying for a professional qualification or learning a new skill - like coding or even acrobatics - now is the time to make that leap of faith. You never know how much success you could enjoy as a photographer, an accountant ...or even a TV physicist.

A background as a keyboard player in a 90s pop group doesn't evoke images of a successful career in academia, but that is exactly how British physicist Brian Cox spent his early years before studying for his PhD in high-energy particle physics.

And although an extreme example, this demonstrates how the workforce is changing. The notion that we will have one career or job that takes us safely from school to retiring in our sixties is no longer set in stone.

Similar patterns are emerging in the world of business, too. Credit Suisse's new CEO Tidjane Thiam was trained as a civil engineer with no banking experience when he was given the top role at the financial services company this March.

According to Daniel Pedley of the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) this marks a significant change in our attitudes towards our careers. "Professions as we think of them today are largely perceived as a Victorian concept. Times have moved on since then," he wrote in a recent report by Centre Forum and the CII.

An ageing population (by 2035 it is estimated that 13% of the world population will be over 65) also means that people will have to work longer, with more flexible approaches to the rapidly changing needs of business and the prospect of career changes. It is vital that organisations are prepared for these new trends by investing in skills and professional development.

Improving the skills base of the workforce has long been a priority for further education experts and in a post-recession economy it is even more important that we invest in the competencies needed to drive productivity and instil competitive advantage. This is brought in to sharp focus when we consider the fact that according to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, in 2013 22% of job vacancies were not filled because of a lack of appropriate skills and training.

Because of this, we should stop thinking of education as something static that ends at university or school, but something fluid that alters and adapts to the ebb and flow of changing business needs. We should all prepare ourselves for shifting business trends by learning new competencies or even totally re-training.

A prime example from the world of CIMA is Ian Mair ACMA, CGMA, regional CFO of property group Grosvenor. With a history in academia (and a PhD in neuroscience), Mair retrained and made the transition to business at a later stage in his life.

So if you have ever considered studying for a professional qualification or learning a new skill - like coding or even acrobatics - now is the time to make that leap of faith. You never know how much success you could enjoy as a photographer, an accountant ...or even a TV physicist.