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Aug 192009
Lifelong Learning

Image by Stephen Downes via Flickr

"Lifelong learning" has become something of a buzzword in recent years.

According to the politicians it’s one of the "key drivers" for "upskilling the workforce" so they can participate in the new "knowledge economy". Buzz, buzz, and more buzz.…

But behind the rhetoric and weasel words of modern political dialogue there’s a serious message trying to break through. It’s simply this: you’re never too old to learn, and learning can and will enhance your life in all sorts of ways… perhaps not just in the areas you expect.

For some adults the decision to return to learning isn’t an easy one to make. Having been compelled to learn through the formal education system, they decide that learning perhaps isn’t for them. Children have a natural curiosity to explore and absorb the world around them — a catalyst for learning that seems absent in many adults, or if not absent then subconsciously subdued. Returning to education years, perhaps decades after leaving the formal education system can feel awkward, unnatural… perhaps even a little frightening. But legions of adult learners attest to the fact that it’s well worth stepping briefly outside your comfort zone to experience the benefits learning can bring.

The really crucial distinction between learning as an adult and learning in school is that as an adult nobody’s forcing you to sit down and listen to something you have little interest in. You’re there because you want to learn, not because somebody else dictates that you have to — and believe it or not that makes all the difference in the world.

AONTAS, the National Adult Learning Organisation, believes there are plenty of reasons why Adult Education is vital to the country, the community, families and individuals. They maintain that people who have an opportunity to continually learn and develop their skills and capacities:

  • Make our economy grow and develop
  • Ensure that their children develop a love of learning and take full advantage of education
  • Actively participate in their own communities and civil society
  • Support and respect people with different cultural beliefs and abilities
  • Respect and protect the environment for future generations
  • Nurture creativity and imagination
  • Live healthy and fulfilled lives

There’s another reason that they don’t list, but that’s crucially important: learning new things is fun, whatever your age.

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Jul 132009

Image via Wikipedia

Written by Philip Crosbie, The Irish Institute of Chinese Studies, UCC

(Edited for Career Moves by Calvin Jones)

Why on earth would you want to learn Chinese?

A few years ago if you’d mentioned you were going to study the culture and language of the most populous country on earth that would have been a common response. Until relatively recently our only exposure to Chinese culture was a sanitised western version of its cuisine, and kung fu films! China, for many of us, still resonates as a distant frontier, somewhere only the most intrepid of travellers would venture: a mysterious cocktail of very different peoples, alien cultures and a cripplingly complex language.

But open any newspaper, magazine or current affairs website and you can’t help but notice another news story from what has become arguably the most dynamic and fastest changing society in the world. Whether it is culture, politics or economics, China continues to change apace, and its change that has impact on a global scale. Our little island on the periphery of northern Europe may seem a world away, but for the Irish economy and Irish business, change in China really matters!

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Jun 092009
03-online learning and resource production

Image by leighblackall via Flickr

Not so long ago learning new skills meant taking time out to go to college, enrolling on a training course or wading through mountains of books, but the internet is changing all of that.
E-learning is revolutionising the way Irish people learn. Now all you need is a PC with a broadband internet connection and you can “attend” a course on practically anything from the comfort of your own home.

What is E-Learning

E-learning is an exciting new form of distance learning that harnesses the power of the internet to deliver interactive course material online. The beauty of E-Learning is its flexibility: you learn at your own pace, at times that suit you, from any computer with an internet connection anywhere in the world.
You don’t have to travel to the classroom – the classroom comes to you. Course material is available 24/7, and with newer e-learning technologies you can even attend “live” online classrooms and interact with your tutor and “classmates” in real time.
In fact, you can cover almost anything you can accomplish in a traditional classroom or training room, all from the comfort of your own PC.

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Oct 152008
“Adult Education” cover

Image via Wikipedia

Taking an extended period of time off work isn’t that unusual. People do it all the time, for all sorts of reasons. Some of the most common situations are parents staying at home to raise a family, caring for relatives at home, recovering from illness or injury, studying, spending time overseas or taking early retirement.

Whatever your reasons for taking time out from work, over time your circumstances will change and you may find yourself wanting to re-enter the workforce. The thought of returning to work after a period of absence can be simultaneously daunting and exciting.

Sure, work will throw up a slew of new challenges, give you the opportunity to test yourself, to channel your talent and ability in new directions – but it will also bring additional responsibility, and after so long out of work you may find your confidence flagging. Will you be able to cope with the transition….

It’s important to remember that while some of your work-related skills may have dulled over time, you can always re-hone them. You are still the same person, and have all the same strengths that you had before – only now you have a suite of new skills and experiences that you’ve picked up along the way. A lot of those skills will transfer seamlessly to the workplace, so essentially you have more skills and experience behind you now than you ever had before.

If you feel your skills are outdated consider retraining. Many community colleges run adult education courses that can help you pick up the skills you need to broaden your employment horizons. State organisations like FAS ( can also help, and offer courses specifically tailored to help people get back to work. Talk to your local FAS office for advice on identifying and acquiring the skills you need.

As well as examining your skills you’ll also need to consider what sort of employment you’re looking for. Do you want to work part time or full time? How will your work fit in with your family arrangements? Do you need flexible working hours? Do you want to work in the same field as before, or are you looking for a change? It’s important that you have a clear idea of the kind of job you want before you start looking.

Once you decided on the type of job, do some background research on the industry. Even if you’re re-entering familiar territory, you may be surprised by how much has changed. Read a few trade magazines, look up industry websites and familiarise yourself with current trends.

When it comes to searching for a job, while tried and tested methods like scanning vacancies in the local press can yield results, it’s often easier to go through recruitment agencies. Recruitment consultants are employment specialists, and generally have a good understanding of the current employment market in their field. Many will also be able to offer valuable advice on things like polishing your CV and improving your interview technique. And don’t forget the internet recruitment sites. There are literally thousands of jobs just a mouse-click away – and you can often apply instantly online.

Going back to work is never an easy step – but it can be an incredibly rewarding and worthwhile one. Good luck!

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