Training provides the esteem driving today's workers

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Simply put, that is the belief that no matter how smart you are today, or what great skills and expertise you have developed during your work history, it might not be enough for tomorrow's work world.

I've heard people scoff at the idea, suggesting that their careers would be just fine without taking remedial steps to expand their horizons.

But a new study shows that attitudes are shifting.

More than half of adults ages 25 to 60 want to obtain more education, according to a study of more than 1,100 people. The study was conducted for Capella University, a Minneapolis-based online university.

That's a whopping group of about 70 million people.

The study reports that two of the five top motivators to pursue more education are focused on career goals: find a new career or make more money.

"One of the big surprises was the mix of reasons why people thought it would be beneficial to get more education," says Lyungai Mbilinyi, who authored the study. "We thought that the prospect of a higher income would come out on top - and although 71 percent did think additional education would help them earn more, several intangibles were rated even higher.

"Eighty-one percent associated higher education with a personal sense of accomplishment, and 78 percent believed education would help them better develop their talents or pursue their interests."

This is an extremely healthy attitude. Anything workers can do to improve themselves means their employers will be better off.

Additional education hurts no one, but Capella's study shows it is being embraced by people we don't typically think of as college students.

Most of us think of college students as being 18 to 22 years old. That's the traditional view.

But those individuals really only comprise 16 percent of the U.S. college population.

Since 1970, the number of college students over the age of 25 has nearly tripled. Today, 38 percent of the 17.6 million students enrolled in colleges and universities today are older than 25.

Apparently, the message of the work force development experts is sinking through.

In the mid-'90s, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich tried to put an emphasis on lifelong learning by floating the idea that the federal government spend an amount equivalent to 1.5 percent of their payroll on employee training and education.

Companies would receive tax breaks for that investment and any company that didn't want to train its own work force would be required to pay into a government-run fund that would provide training to workers who wanted it.

"A well-trained work force is a competitive advantage," Reich said at the time. "But companies, by and large, are not living up to their responsibility to train workers."

Reich's belief was that companies need to invest in the education and training of their workers to maintain a competitive advantage.

"The smart companies know that," he said.

Now, the Capella study seems to indicate that smart adults know that, too.

© Copley News Service

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