‘Lifelong learning’ is the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons. Businesses should encourage lifelong learning by employees as it enhances personal development, self-sustainability, competitiveness and employability. The concept Lifelong Learning was introduced in Denmark in 1971.

Learning needs and styles have changed and learning can no longer be divided into a place and time to acquire knowledge (school) and a place and time to apply the knowledge acquired (the workplace). Instead, learning can be seen as something that takes place on an ongoing basis from our daily interactions with others and with the world around us. It can take the form of formal learning or informal learning, or self-directed learning.

Lifelong learners tend to find higher-paying occupations. In addition, they tend to make large contributions to society in the monetary, cultural, and entrepreneurial fields.

Lifelong learning includes:

  • Adult education or the acquisition of formal qualifications or work and leisure skills later in life.
  • Continuing education which often describes extension or not-for-credit courses.
  • Knowledge work which includes professional development and on-the-job training.
  • Personal learning environments or self-directed learning using a range of tools including online applications.

The professions now recognise the importance of developing practitioners to be lifelong learners. For example, for accountants the initial degree is just the start. To that is added on the job work experience and a second course or qualification (like CPA or CA). Then ongoing short courses and training of at least 30 hours per year.


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