Friday, 22 May 2015

Learning at Work Week: why you don't have to give up education when you leave school

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This week is Learning at Work Week, or ‘LAW Week’. It forms part of the ongoing events taking place to celebrate this year’s Festival of Learning.

LAW Week aims to promote awareness and support for the importance of learning and development in the workplace, by inviting organisations and individuals to participate in a range of activities which encourage people to take up the challenge of learning something new. Each year, LAW Day focuses on a different theme to highlight different aspects of workplace learning. This year’s theme is ‘Shaping our Future.’

Here at NEC we are no strangers to learning while you work. In fact, many of our students come to us specifically because they need a flexible way of studying that fits around their career or family commitments. When NEC was set up over 50 years ago, one the core aims its founders wanted to achieve was for people to be able to ‘earn while they learn’ through distance education.

Many of our learners have studied while working. We hope that by sharing some of their stories we can inspire others to see how education is not something you need to give up once you enter the world of work, but rather that it is complimentary to your working life and career.

International student James Barker rediscovered science in his late 30s, when he started a scuba diver instructor course. What he learned from studying for his Combined Science IGCSE gave him valuable insight into aspects of scuba diving as well as the wider world around him.

‘As I live and work abroad it was impossible for me to pursue a course at a school or university,’ James explained. ‘So I chose so study by distance learning but the question on my lips was who should I enrol with and who would accept me considering that I live and work in the Republic of Korea? I enquired at the Department of Education in the UK and they recommended the NEC and needless to say it was music to my ears to learn that they could take me on.’

When then-teenager Miranda Stocks left school, she knew she wanted to go to university but was unsure what subject to take. So she started working at Waitrose as part of the customer service team in the meantime. When the time came for her to pick up her studies again, she realised she wanted a couple more A levels in subjects she had not studied at school. She also knew that, since she was now working, she would need a method of study that would fit alongside her working hours.

The flexibility of distance learning was one of the key reasons Miranda chose NEC. There were no fixed deadlines for assignments – crucial when you’re working and studying at the same time. After receiving the results from her exams, Miranda commented on her achievements: ‘I think it is a huge credit to NEC that I was able to score over 90% in the majority of my exams and exceed my offer from Cambridge by getting two A*s.  Without the support and guidance the NEC gave me, that wouldn’t have been achievable for anyone working under similar time constraints.’

Library assistant Catherine Speechley had what she described as a haphazard routine when she decided to fit more learning into her life. With her hours of work constantly changing, she knew that she would not have been able to work around a college timetable.

‘Distance learning with NEC has been just what I hoped it would be,’ said Catherine. ‘In fact, it has exceeded my expectations as everything has worked – the tutors and the course materials have all been great. The tutors are so encouraging with their comments and don’t inundate you with loads of heavy corrections. They manage to point you in the right direction with just a few words, even if you have lost the plot! I particularly liked the way NEC was able to arrange for me to sit my exams at a local centre. All I had to do was fill in a form, pay and turn up for the exams!’

Her employer has been very positive about her wish to keep on learning and in the past has even funded her to do courses such as Levels 1 and 2 British Sign Language, which took three years to complete. This kind of encouragement and supportive outlook has helped her to achieve an IGCSE in Biology, and she is now continuing her studies with an IGCSE in French.

We want to encourage employers and learners to take part in LAW Week because the right course at the right time really can change someone’s life. Investing in people and building a culture of life-long learning will benefit not only the learners themselves, but will also empower them to contribute more to their work, which ultimately benefits our economy and wider society – as the theme goes, shaping our future.

Have you learned something new this week? Have you or your employer been involved in the LAW Week activities? Share your stories and help inspire others to make learning life-long! Join in the discussion on social media by following the hashtag: #LoveToLearn.

For information on how to take part in LAW Week, visit the Campaign for Learning’s website to find out what events are taking place.

If you want to learn more about NEC, our work and our learners, visit our website where you can also browse through our wide range of flexible distance learning courses. You can keep up to date with all our latest news and events by subscribing to our newsletter or following our blog. We can also be found on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

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