Is Continuing Education Worth it? Quick Answer…Yes!

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Have you ever thought about all the change and uncertainty in the world today and wondered to yourself how you will get ahead in your career? In such challenging times, how can you remain current in your field, seize upon new opportunities, and stay ahead of the wave of technological disruption?

What if we told you tens of thousands of Canadians just like you have been thinking about that same question, and they’ve come up with an answer? They decided to go back to school.

Rather than picturing teenagers with textbooks, when you think of modern postsecondary studies you should also be thinking about mid-career workers toting laptops and fresh from their office jobs downtown. You should also be picturing senior leaders looking to expand their professional network and take their careers to the next level, and late career workers exploring research questions that have stuck with them their entire working lives. And you wouldn’t want to leave out the many mature students who continue their studies via the internet.

According to Statistics Canada, in the 2017/18 academic year students aged 25 and older made up a third of all students enrolled in postsecondary studies. About 12 per cent of all students were at least age 35. Both cohorts have been steadily growing in recent years.

As Alan Shephard, president of the University of Western Ontario, said in a 2017 op-ed, “Throughout careers, people are coming back to university to acquire the enhanced skills and new knowledge that will allow them to grow and adapt professionally.” He also noted the importance of Canada’s postsecondary institutions in meeting society’s need for skilled, adaptable knowledge workers in a time when the world of work is changing rapidly.

This changing work climate doesn’t come as any surprise to those employed in sectors like transportation, retail, data entry, and manufacturing. These sectors have been just the latest victims of technological progress, forcing many workers to retrain and upgrade their skills. What some of those workers have discovered is that, rather than being an inconvenience, continuing education provides the perfect opportunity to retrain for the future and stay ahead of the curve.

A 2017 report from Dell Technologies suggests 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 don’t exist today, and recent years have already seen many new job titles and sectors appear. Canada’s colleges and universities are leading the way in preparing for these jobs with programs that focus on emerging industries such as big data, automation, advanced manufacturing, and the environment.

For those with some working years left, enrolling in a postsecondary program allows them to upgrade their skillset, provide external and become an even greater asset to their current employer or find a new and better paying opportunity. Business, engineering, and medicine degrees tend to offer the strongest return on investment, according to a 2016 Statistics Canada report.

Some others are taking postsecondary programs as a passion project, seeking to contribute to society in a way they couldn’t during their career. They apply their existing knowledge alongside their new studies to conduct research or give back to their community.

And some enroll simply because they enjoy the challenge and the community that postsecondary studies offer. Whatever your passion, and whatever your reason, continuing education offers you the best chance of continued career success and personal growth in a rapidly changing world.