Be a life-long learner


MANY of our skills today don’t match the jobs of tomorrow. This is probably why lifelong learning is one of the required Programme Learning Outcomes for the undergraduate Engineering degree, mandated by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

Unfortunately, most people stop learning after completing their undergraduate degree if not high school, and thus give up the ability of self-empowerment.

Lifelong learning isn’t just about getting another degree or fulfilling the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) point at the end of the year – it is about creating and maintaining a positive attitude towards learning.

Whether through the formal and structured, or informal and self-directed approach, the idea is to acquire new knowledge or skills for professional and personal development. As learning becomes more convenient with technological advancement, self-empowerment is achievable for most of us. When we stop learning, we stop growing.

Most of the attention has been on technical skills when it comes to professional development. While it may be the right place to start, one should not neglect soft skills as these are crucial to ensure your sustainable career development.

The sad reality is that those who perform well individually may not always be that productive in groups and many organisations suffer from talent loss when a high performing employee is promoted to a managerial role.

As synergy is only possible with more than one person, interpersonal and management skills are crucial when it comes to teamwork. We may be brought up to compete, but collaboration is the only way to stay sustainable.

Personal development is probably at the bottom of the list when it comes to New Year resolutions as it hardly generates an immediate income. Nonetheless, let us not undermine its impact as it will most certainly improve your confidence and overall quality of life.

From adult learning to upskilling and reskilling, there is no one-size-fits-all programme. In order to make learning effective, you will have to first understand your learning style because this is a life-long journey and you want to be sure that you enjoy every bit of it. All you have to do next is to pick something that you like and commit to learning something new every week, if not every day.

“Sharpen the saw”, or to aim for continuous improvement, wrote Stephen Covey in his book “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”. As easy as it sounds, many are too caught up with life and not willing to make time for life-long learning. But no matter how busy you are, you can’t drive around without re-fuelling your vehicle.

Ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all is one of the Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations. Let us not wait for the ‘right time’ to learn because it will never come. Make it happen while you are still able to.

Dr Chia Chee Ming obtained his B.Eng and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Sheffield, and has over a decade of experience in academia. He started as a lecturer at SEGi University before being made Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology. A Chief Editor at one of the SEGi in-house journals, he is actively engaged in strengthening university-industry collaboration. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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