Lifelong learning crucial for economic growth – EU Conference

9 May 2014

For the economies of the EU to recover and achieve sustainable growth it is vital that adults are motivated and given the opportunities to improve their skills, especially those with the lowest skills. The challenge facing the EU, the progress individual countries are making and the scope for international collaboration was discussed at a three-day international conference held in Edinburgh from Monday 12 May.

The conference – International Learning Times – brought together researchers, adult educators, policy makers, adult learners and employers to explore and investigate a range of policies, tools and techniques that support the EU Action Plan for Adult Learning – Always a Good Time to Learn.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, said:

“Across the European Union, each country faces a range of economic and social challenges – in particular, an ageing population and an increasing reliance on a highly skilled workforce while coping with significant skills shortages and skills gaps.

“Learning is a key solution to these challenges. However, in the UK – as in other countries – we have a divided education system. For those who enjoyed a strong initial education and have good jobs and prospects, they will have more access to further learning.  For everyone else, motivation and opportunities are limited. One of the reasons is that some people who are not engaged in education and training think it is not for them.

“While motivating people to see learning as crucial to their future lives and their families, communities and workplaces, there is no point getting doing this if the learning doesn’t meet their needs or the way they like to learn.  It’s essential that we get people into learning, improve practice once they are learning and make sure what we know about what works influences policy and how we, as societies, fund adult learning.

“This conference is a great opportunity for organisations from across the EU to learn from each other about what works and what doesn’t.  We need to build a consensus across Europe about the right way forward; a consensus that is conscious of the realities of the times.”

International Learning Times: Promoting the EU Agenda for Adult Learning featured keynote addresses from the European Commission, UNESCO, International Council for Adult Education, EFA, European Association for the Education of Adults, NIACE, and Scotland’s Learning Partnership about key strategies and developments that support the participation of adults across Europe and Internationally.