Lifelong Learning: Why it's Critical for Today's Workforce

How is it possible there were 12.7 million unemployed Americans in 2010, while seven million skilled jobs went unfilled? The answer lies in the so-called “skills gap” that we’re currently experiencing—job searchers are unqualified for available positions. The future looks bleak; if we continue down the current path, seven million will increase to 21 million empty jobs by 2020.

To better understand the changing dynamics between lifelong education and workforce productivity, The EvoLLLution, a group seeking to illuminate the LifeLong Learning movement, commissioned a study by an independent research firm. The 2012 study sheds some light on on the issue and provides statistics to make a strong case for education and training in all industries by asking these three questions:

  1. What do employees need to do to get ahead?
  2. How are employees rewarded or otherwise compensated for their educational efforts?
  3. How does employee learning affect the company and the larger society?

Finding are clear—a serious lack of education is to blame for the skills gap. 93% of mid-level professional jobs require an Associates degree or higher, but only 38% of working age Americans have attained this level of education. While college may not be for everyone or required for every job, there are other ways of learning that can provide workers in all industries with the skills and experience they need to get jobs and promotions.

Ongoing education is critical. From the report: “70% of employers believe that employees need continuous learning simply to keep up with the demands of their current jobs.” That number is surely higher in regards to employees looking to get promoted from their current job. 96% of employers agree that ongoing education has a positive impact on their employees’ job performance.

Nine out of ten employers factor training and professional development into promotions and raises; training helps workers attain higher status and security in their company. Providing education both enables companies to keep up in their industry through highly skilled workers, and also enables promotion from within (which saves companies time and money by avoiding costly outside hires). Employees who are promoted from within tend to be more successful and stay with their companies longer.

The report examines each sector more in depth, providing great insight into technology, healthcare, and general business.


Learning in the tech sector is less dependent on credentials and credited learning, but that doesn’t mean it’s less important. In fact, 94% of employers stated ongoing education is “important” for mid-level professionals, while two-thirds said it was “very important.” Just-in-time learning is most critical for those in tech so employees can stay up-to-date on ever-changing industry trends.


Within the healthcare field, pay is highly related to education and training level (usually formal education or credits—often CEUs). 98% of employers believe ongoing education has a positive impact on employee job performance. Getting a raise or promotion is highly contingent on completing assigned training and continuing education.

General Business

Soft skills are the most critical consideration for business employers. General knowledge is emphasized over very specific or technical skills. Communication, management, and customer service were identified as especially important. 92% of employers stated it’s important for employees to participate in ongoing education.

Formal learning cannot end when people enter the workforce. It was found that lifelong learners demonstrate ambition, leadership, and motivation to stay ahead of industry trends and advancements. Aren’t these the kind of employees you want?

OpenSesame makes it easy to provide training and professional development to your employees; browse our catalogue or get in touch for more info! For more info, read the study here.