Peer to Peer: Education can be a lifelong endeavour in the workforce

I feel that I’ve gone as far as I can in the workforce with the education I have.  How do I know if it’s the right time to get more training or go back to school?

I feel that I’ve gone as far as I can in the workforce with the education I have. How do I know if it’s the right time to get more training or go back to school?

Oren Lupo - Business management program co-ordinator, Langara College Continuing Studies

As a program co-ordinator at Langara College, I advise a broad range of students, from those looking to explore new interests, upgrade their skills or make a complete career switch.

One thing that motivates people to get into further education is feeling that they lack the necessary skills to be considered for future opportunities. On the positive side, this obstacle can motivate them to research educational possibilities beyond their workplace, sometimes opening up new horizons.

Students who are trying to get a sense of whether or not the time is “right” for a change are often persuaded by how well a certain program of study fits with their individual goals. They look at different institutions and compare convenience, flexibility, length of program, price points and quality of education.

Many go to their peers, colleagues or family members for advice. If they are thinking of a specialty career, they might visit professional association websites. Other students go for career assessments to find their vocational aptitudes.

Most students who look for career training want a credential from a reputable institution that will be recognized by future employers.

Other students take a different route by involving their employers, to let them know that they want to be on track for a promotion. Students should look carefully at the industries in which they are currently working to get a sense of future prospects.

Key questions to research would be how much competition there will be for positions down the road, and whether they will have to change location or take on longer hours in order to realize the potential of their educational investments.

Sean Magee-Teitelbaum - Program adviser, B.C. Institute of Technology

You’re certainly not alone. It is very common for people to reach a point in their career when they consider improving on or redirecting their education. It’s also common for people to change careers several times throughout their lives, re-educating when necessary. Sixty-eight per cent of B.C. Institute of Technology (BCIT) students have some post-secondary education prior to coming to BCIT, which tells you a lot about lifelong learning in today’s career climate.

Whether you are seeking a promotion with your current employer or within your current industry, there is no need to “start from scratch.” Many returning students choose study paths that allow them to build on their existing education and work experience.

Be sure to check with an adviser to see what past education credentials you may have that could be applied to transfer credits or advanced placement in a new program. For information on transfers, credits, and job availability check out the WorkBC webpage.

If you’re considering an entire change in industry, you have a couple of options. Consider studying on a part-time basis: taking one or more courses per term and working towards a certificate, diploma or degree. At BCIT, over 60% of our 48,000 students are enrolled in part-time classes, taking courses offered at night, on weekends and online.

Alternatively, there are many post-secondary institutions that offer applied learning and career-specific programs that will allow you to quickly learn new skills. You’ll likely have to leave the workforce for a short time, but you’ll be able to embark on your new career – and start earning – relatively quickly. Look for programs that work closely with industry partners to ensure your education aligns with your career goals.

Zoe MacLeod - Director, Royal Roads University Centre for Coaching and Workplace Innovation

The long answer is: it depends. As someone who works in the education sector and as an executive coach, I work through this question with many people seeking similar answers.

It sounds as though you might be considering a change. If this is the case, then there are a few questions to ask yourself that might help you determine your path forward.

1. Are you happy with the job and position you have? Are you happy or just comfortable? If you are seeking advancement, and you feel stuck, then it’s likely time for you to learn something new.

2. Are you looking to advance inside your organization? What skills do you think you might need in order to increase your capabilities and support the direction of the organization?

3. Are you considering changing careers? Think ahead to the year 2020. What do you see yourself doing? What fulfils you? When you have a great day at work, what happened? What do you like best about the work that you do?

4. Who are your biggest advocates and supporters (friends, family, colleagues, mentors, coaches) – make a list – who could explore possibilities with you?

Whatever your decision, learning is the answer. If you decide you are ready for a change, go learn something new.

If you decide that you are comfortable in the current work that you do, go learn something new. The key to advancement, in any capacity, is learning. Quite often, we think we’ll be able to find more time, more money and more support to continue learning. There is never a right time.

There is only now. Keep learning.