Lifelong learning is an essential element of a satisfying retirement. And lifelong learning is an increasingly vital part of a successful career, including a second career. Our special guest, Dr. Michelle Weise, explains how longer lifespans are changing the nature of careers and education, and why lifelong learning is important for individuals and employers.
Dr. Michelle R. Weise is the author of Long-Life Learning: Preparing for Jobs that Don’t Even Exist Yet. Thinkers50 named her one of 30 management and leadership thinkers in the world to watch in 2021. She is a senior advisor at Imaginable Futures, a venture of The Omidyar Group. Dr. Weise’s work over the last decade has concentrated on preparing working-age adults for the jobs of today and tomorrow. She was the chief innovation officer of Strada Education Network as well as Southern New Hampshire University. With Clayton Christensen, she coauthored Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution (2014) while leading the higher education practice at Christensen’s Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Dr. Weise also advises BrightHive, a data collaboration platform, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), the SkillUp Coalition, Strategic Education Inc.’s HIRE board, MIT SOLVE, Village Capital, Western Governors University Teachers College, Clayton Christensen Institute Social Capital R&D Project, and World Education’s Personal and Workplace Success Skills Library. She has also served as a commissioner for Massachusetts Governor Baker’s Commission on Digital Innovation and Lifelong Learning, Harvard University’s Task Force on Skills and Employability, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education.
Her commentaries on redesigning higher education and developing more innovative workforce and talent pipeline strategies have been featured in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Harvard Business Review and on PBS Newshour.
Michelle is a former Fulbright Scholar and graduate of Harvard and Stanford.
“…basically since the 1840s, every year we’ve added on an average of three months to our lifespans. And there’s no sign that that’s actually stopping or lessening over time. I think we do have an interesting phenomenon here with the pandemic that is kind of shaping our mortality rates, obviously in this century, in this year, in this decade. But for the most part, we know that our lifespans have been extending. And then there are different kinds of futurists and experts on aging and longevity who are proposing that the first people to live to be a hundred and years old have already been born. So if we just take this concept of a hundred-year life or 150 year work-life, even if we don’t maybe fully buy into it, or want to buy into it because we don’t want to live 150 years, that’s still a very helpful mental model for us to think about how do we actually thrive in this future, where we are already seeing that a lot of working-age adults are staying in the workforce for far longer than they had ever anticipated well into their sixties and seventies.
On Preparing for an Extended Worklife
“We see that early baby boomers are experiencing 12 job changes on average by the time they retire. So even if we just extend a little bit in terms of thinking about an extended work-life, whether it’s 60, 80, or a hundred years, it’s not actually that difficult for us to extrapolate and think, ‘Oh, we could possibly face maybe 20 or 30 job changes by the time we retire’ – and how in the world are we going to do that when navigating one [job change] is so difficult. And so the way that I think about a way to visualize this idea of long-life learning is really the future of work and the future of education are going to become inextricably tied. So as we think about thriving in a world of work, we’re going to have to make more continuous returns to learning. It’s hard for us to imagine that even a two-year degree or a four-year degree can last us for that 80 or 100-year work life. And so we need those continuous returns to learning to be much more seamless. If you imagine a Cloverleaf exchange on a freeway or a highway, and you’re taking that loop off-ramp, you’re getting exactly the kind of skilling or re-skilling or retooling that you need. And then seamlessly reentering that highway, that workforce highway. It needs to feel like that right now when we think about entertaining a job change. We don’t know who to call, where to go, what learning pathway to trust. How do I know an employer will understand what this credential means? None of that is transparent and easily navigable today. So how do we envision a world in which long-life learning becomes more seamless, like taking one of those Cloverleaf overpasses?”
For More on Dr. Michele Wiese
Mentioned in this episode:
How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen
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