The many benefits of continuing education

Southern Cross academic, David Noble recently shared his thoughts and experiences around the benefits and importance of lifelong learning as an adult.

This week I’ve had two conversations with people who didn’t think further education was “worth the money or the time”.

One already had a degree and a couple of diplomas. He informed me that he’d started a Masters level course, but withdrew when he realised that he didn’t need it to get a job in his industry.

The other person had a couple of TAFE certificates and was working in a relatively low-paid position. She said that she wasn’t prepared to undertake more study because it would only give her “an extra couple of dollars per hour”.

It struck me both people took a particularly short-term, economic and blinkered view of further education.

My friends’ short-term approach is particularly dangerous at the moment. We are poised to experience massive disruption in many jobs and professions, in an increasingly digitised and roboticised era.

Many of the jobs we have taken for granted for most of our life may not exist in the future. Driverless trains are already a reality in places like the London underground. Driverless cars are coming sooner than we think, with Uber already trialling them in America. Driverless buses already operate in Perth. Many core functions in professions like accounting are being replaced with online solutions and smart algorithms. So assuming that the job we are doing today will be still around in ten or fifteen years is a risky approach.

My friends also complained about the high cost of education. It is true that education is costly to deliver and to undertake. It is effectively an investment in future earnings, and the government has recognised this with their Fee-Help system.

It is important to take a long-term view of the return on our education investment, but also to consider what else could open up for us as we develop new skills.

A blinkered view of education sees it as a transfer of facts between teacher and student. It is far more than that. Education opens our eyes to new opportunities, new ways of thinking, and forces us to keep up with changes within our profession, and with modern technology.

Australia has an excellent TAFE and university system. No matter if you are an employer considering upskilling your staff, or a worker tossing up if you should go back to school, further education will reap benefits far beyond the “facts” learnt in the classroom. Who knows, it might just change how you see the world.

About the author

Mr David Noble is an Associate Lecturer, Doctoral Researcher and the online Master of Project Management course coordinator at Southern Cross University.