When asked about education, many people will respond with their formative years in mind. Whether K-12 or through university and graduate school, people still have a tendency to create a mental split between the years they spend studying and the years they spend working. However, there are reasons to believe that this conception of education is outdated, especially given the current rate of change and the ever-changing demands of the modern workplace.
Continuing education programs have been around for many years now, but they often attract people who are looking for a specific benefit, such as a promotion in their field or a career change. Both of these are laudable goals, but lifelong learning doesn’t have to be tied specifically to promotions or the decision to start a new career. In fact, more and more companies are giving their employees time for professional development as they work or in the form of sabbaticals.
By the time the average graduate completes a degree program, they usually find that a large percentage of the technology they learned in school has already become obsolete or has moved on to a new generation or upgrade. This alone should underscore the importance of continuing education, even for those whose work is not directly related to technology. Technology continues to transform almost every aspect of society, so those who don’t keep up will lose out to some extent, regardless of their profession.
Science has also discovered other reasons that people should never stop learning. A variety of studies have found a correlation between continued learning and brain function. Contrary to what people believed before, scientists now know that the brain continues to change and even build new connections as we age. Mental exercise can help prevent conditions like Alzheimer’s by strengthening the synaptic connections in the brain—something obviously beneficial for everyone.