As the last year has passed with forced time off and lost or reduced work, many of us have taken the opportunity to look back over our lives, re-evaluating choices, considering paths new and old, and giving more thought than we typically have time for about the lives we want to live moving forward.

Much of that introspection is necessarily contingent upon each of our individual circumstances, of course, and for those who have lost work, careers or even entire businesses, the path forward may include learning new skills and methodologies just to enable us to start over. That in and of itself can be a wildly daunting challenge, and for many people, the idea of moving into a new period of learning can seem impossible.

In reality, though, the ability to restart a learning cycle, or better yet, to continue one, can mean the difference not just between career opportunities, but also between lagging cognitive abilities and continued mental acuity as we age. Fostering the habit of lifelong learning is less an option today and more an actual imperative, especially for our more experienced and maturing populations.

Starting our youth on the path of lifelong learning means that they will have nimble, agile cognitive processes their whole lives and be prepared to adjust their skills as needed.

But Inspiring the next generation isn’t enough. We need to provide those already in the work force with the means to keep their mental faculties limber and their job skills sharp as well. When the world of work changes – as it already dramatically has and will certainly continue to do so – our older and maturing workforce must be ready to meet those changes.

One of the greatest challenges faced by employers is maintaining a robust, viable workforce, especially in the face of a changing world. Retaining proven staff via upskilling is much more efficient and productive than going through the time and expense of training new, unproven personnel.

Keeping that experienced staff ready to face the previously unforeseen challenges that will eventually appear is surprisingly simple: keep them learning. Giving people the incentive to master new skills, such as a new language (including coding), math skills, or simply new ways of thinking about the world around us, means that that those people are more comfortable and practiced at grasping new ideas of every kind, and more likely to engage In creative problem solving as challenges arise in the workplace.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) get the lion’s share of media attention these days, understandably so. Developments in these fields have made huge impacts in our lives, and will certainly continue to do so.

But we need more. Being able to look at obstacles creatively and to draw from different disciplines in crafting resolutions, is a key factor in problem solving at a high level. The multi-faceted issues that we face, now and in the future, need teams who are able to evaluate the environment, see effects and benefits, understand goals, and develop innovative solutions, and one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to ensure that your team is ready, is to create and maintain learning opportunities for them as a regular part of their work experience.

Kim Jacobs
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