There is a saying that education is wasted on the young, and while that may be an exaggeration there are certainly clear benefits to learning in later life. In fact, research conducted by Newsquest training partner Home Learning College showed that 40% of Brits think it is easier to feel motivated by a genuine interest in a subject when studying as an adult.

This goes some way to explaining why two fifths of people aged over 18 are planning to study for a new qualification in 2010.

Scrapping the retirement age Coinciding with this interest in adult learning are moves to scrap the current default retirement age of 65, after which staff can be forced to finish work. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has argued that removing this age limit would encourage greater flexibility and better techniques for managing workers across the age spectrum.

Research conducted by EHRC suggests that this change would be welcomed – 64% of women and 24% of men expressed a desire to remain economically active after the state pension age. However, while people may be happy to continue working well into their 60s, they may not wish to stay in their current job.

Changing career in later life In fact, Home Learning College figures show that 39% of people would want to change career if they thought they would have to work until they are 70.

Nowadays it is common to have several distinct careers throughout a lifetime. This trend has been emerging for a while and has only been reinforced by the recent recession, which has seen many people forced to change direction later in life following redundancy.

“The concept of a job for life is dead,” says Dave Snow, Academic Director at Home Learning College. “Instead, people are showing a strong interest in updating their skills and re-training for completely different roles. For example, a quarter of students on one of our popular web design courses are aged over 55. Accounting and bookkeeping courses are also in high demand among this age group thanks to the opportunities for flexible working available to professionals in this sector.

“Clearly, a large number of people are investing in continued learning to stay competitive in today’s challenging economic climate. It is this attitude and commitment to further study that will make working beyond the official retirement age tolerable and hopefully even pleasurable.“ The wide range of further education options means that gaining these new skills does not need to be daunting. Many courses are offered on a part time basis, either through a local college or via distance learning. The latter can be an attractive route for older learners who may not feel comfortable going back into a classroom environment; allowing them to progress at a comfortable pace, with access to a dedicated tutor.

Real life case study 41 year old Evelyn Murphy had worked for many years as a caterer in the local school community, but was keen to broaden her career and give herself greater flexibility.

Bookkeeping offered the challenge and career progression she sought, offering an opportunity to become self employed.

Evelyn searched the internet for potential courses and decided to sign up for the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) Practical Bookkeeping course with Home Learning College.

Evelyn found the experience of distance learning to be extremely positive, as she explains: “Once I’d made the decision to study bookkeeping, I knew that distance learning would be the best option, as I needed a course that was flexible and could be fitted around my existing work and social commitments. The best thing about studying at home was that I was able to work at my own pace, safe in the knowledge that I was only ever a click away from support and guidance.

“The tutors provided unwavering support and reassurance, giving me excellent feedback on assignments and motivating me to continue. That’s not to say that I didn’t find the course challenging. I left school with no mathematical skills and this course showed me a way of dealing with mathematical equations and controlling accounts in the running of a business. I certainly felt nervous when it came to sitting my exams, but I passed with flying colours, which was a real achievement.

“My family and friends have been hugely supportive of my studies, and gaining this qualification has given me more self confidence and motivation to achieve my goals. I’ve been inspired to do more study and have recently started the Sage Payroll course through Home Learning College.”

For more information visit our training courses pages.