comparing adult learners in knowledge-based economies

a report from statistics canda contemplates the findings of a study of adult learners between canada, united states, norway, and switzerland.

each country reported nearly or more than 50% of the adult population enrolment in organised forms of adult learning during the year preceding the interview. most said it was for job-related reasons and a very small percentage had been engaged in adult learning for personal reasons.

“The dominance of work-related reasons for participating remains unchanged over a person’s entire working life. It is notable, for example, that close to 90% of Canadians with job tenure of more than 21 years who reported participating in an organized form of adult learning in 2002 did so for job-related reasons, a percentage that is similar to employees who had been in the job for between one and five years.

These results suggest that a large proportion of Canadians are active participants in what is now commonly referred to as the ‘knowledge-based economy’ and are ready to upgrade their skills in order to improve and/or maintain their prospects in the labour market. At the same time, it is becoming rare for Canadian adults to engage in organized learning activities primarily for personal reasons or study for the sake of study.”

it is also worth noting that more than 50% of interviewed learners from all four countries reported that they received financial support from their employer, however learners from the european countries were more still likely to engage in education and training even when unemployed compared to the north american learners interviewed.
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the report also contemplates the impact of job and workplace characteristics on adult learning as well as skills match-mismatch and participation in adult learning, but concludes that “it is worth noting that employer support for training favours high-skill workers in jobs with high skill requirements. That raises the question, then, of how best to create education and training opportunities for those in need of skills upgrading.”

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