Lifelong Learning is a well established requirement to meet the needs of ever-changing social and labour market requirements across Europe and to meet the smart, sustainable and inclusive principles of the Europe 2020 Strategy. The recent OECD PISA report 2014 highlights that we need to reform education to ensure students and teachers collaborate together so that that young people acquire, not only the skills and competences they require to make the most of their education and their lives, but also the capacity to go on learning for the whole of their lives. This is vital in the areas of IT, STEM and Creative and Service Industries(CSI) recognised as priority skills in the likes of the All Ireland Skills strategy.
People working in a wide range of professions engage in formal continuous professional development (CPD) to learn, develop and apply new knowledge and skills to improve their performance in work. Hayes Mizell note there is growing recognition of the importance of informal learning in the workplace (2010) Eraud, a leading researcher in how professionals learn agrees that much learning is informal, is not necessarily planned or conscious and is often undertaken through collaborative peer exchanges which are not captured and recognised (2008). Eraud adds that there is a need to create opportunities to ensure “staff meet and work with others to develop mutual trust and co-operative relationships.” Collaboration leads to improvement in teaching practices and continuous teacher learning(European Commission, 2011; OECD TALIS, 2009)
The Bruges Communiqué states that we need to adapt VET content, infrastructure and methods regularly in order to keep pace with shifts to new production technologies and work organization (2010). Non-formal and informal learning opportunities offer cost effective and sustainable mechanisms to support and enhance formal CPD particularly in rapidly changing fields such as entrepreneurship and new technologies. Activities can include a variety of workplace activities in which learning can take place such as participation in group activities, working alongside others in a mentoring and coaching relationship, tackling challenging tasks, networking, sharing resources and working with employers. These approaches can be more effective than individual CPD, especially when undertaken over a period of time as opposed to in a one-off session.