Among all Europeans between 24 and 65 years old who had a tertiary educational degree in 2010, 82.8% were working. In the same age group, 68.3% who completed secondary schooling were working. Only 46% of those who did not complete secondary schooling were working. It is apparent that if Europe wants to be working, higher education is the necessary foundation for being competitive in the labour market.
Since this is not only true for generations of future workers currently in school, but equally so for those who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s today, Lifelong Learning must be essential to continued employability. To be competitive in today’s demanding labour market and to cope with poor economic conditions, such as the ones currently experiences across the EU, it is crucial for individuals to have their abilities and skills developed to a maximum. This allows an individual to quickly find work and to swiftly move between jobs. Once employed, it enables the individual to perform highly, which we would expect to come associated with greater responsibility and greater scope for independent and creative work, in turn encouraging more employee participation and involvement in the workplace.
All in all, we would expect a highly skilled individual to have a more enjoyable and secure work experience than a poorly skilled individual on the same job. High skill levels furthermore create a win-win situation for the companies and economies the individual works in, as they benefit from the increased productivity, resulting in higher profits and national income, greater innovativeness, lower unemployment, and an improved business and national competitiveness.
Given the importance of Lifelong Learning, individuals, companies and governments across the world seek to invest in it. The cumulative investment necessary to generate higher education degrees alone for adults over the next two decades across Europe may be 3.5 trillion euros, or 1.4% of the European GDP per year. Even higher investments will be required in non-formal and informal Lifelong Learning to take place across an employee’s working life.
However, research to date has generated little actionable evidence on how human capital is created through learning over an individual’s life. We consequently have little evidence to guide investments in Lifelong Learning. The European Commission has therefore granted the LLLight’in’Europe project four years and 25 researchers to investigate the following urgent questions:
1.How do successful enterprises actively employ Lifelong Learning for their competitive advantage?
2.Which public policy environments facilitate Lifelong Learning for such enterprises and entrepreneurs?
3.How does Lifelong Learning interact with and promote innovativeness on the enterprise level?
4.How much of which skills do European adults actually have?
5.What are the actual learning mechanisms in adult life that lead to these skills?
6.What are the causal effects of these skills on growth, competitiveness and social cohesion?
The LLLight’in’Europe project is part of the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), an initiative supporting high-impact projects crucial for “responding to Europe‘s needs in terms of jobs and competitiveness, and to maintain leadership in the global knowledge economy”. The project is a cooperation of nine European and international research institutions, supported by the OECD and Cedefop. It will run from January 2012 until September 2016
As part of the project, a new and innovative approach to measuring human capital will be employed. Traditional measures of human capital, such as years of education, numeracy and literacy, focus on skills obtained mostly through formal education at early stages of life, and pay little attention to the applicability of human capital in daily and working life. These measures can therefore make few meaningful predictions about how human capital is created and maintained through learning at later stages of life, especially at work, and what the social and economic impact of the human capital thus created might be.
To address these issues, the LLLight’in’Europe project uses Complex Problem Solving skills (CPS) as a measure of human capital. CPS refers to the individual’s ability to solve complex and quickly changing problems. This is a valuable skill in itself, as it helps solving the kinds of problems regularly encountered in daily life and at work, most possibly resulting in better social and work performance for the individual. Beyond this, CPS is also a foundation skill for the acquisition of further skills such as the high-value job specific skills. These are important to individuals as they result in greater job security and better remuneration, to firms as they ensure performance and competitive advantage, and to economies as they support low unemployment and national competitiveness.
Beyond establishing the importance of CPS as a skill in daily and working life, research also indicates that this skill is trainable across life. The LLLight’in’Europe project aims to develop recommendations for individuals, companies and economies on how to best invest their Lifelong Learning resources to maximize individual and collective economic and social well-being. To develop a sound understanding of the level CPS skills possessed by adults across and outside of Europe, and to grasp how these skills were developed through Lifelong Learning, the LLLight’in’Europe project embarks on an extensive series of CPS assessments.
Over the course of four years, the CPS abilities of a total of 4150 individuals will be recoded. Of these, 3850 will be employees from 50 successful companies, sampled from across 5-6 highly competitive industries in15 EU countries and 4 EU competitors. The remaining 300 will be entrepreneurs from across the EU. Tests are conducted at the employer’s/ entrepreneur’s premises during working hours. They consist of presenting participants with computer simulations of situations and issues they might encounter in daily life or at work, asking them to explore, represent and solve these problems as well as possible.
The LLLight’in’Europe project takes privacy issues seriously and obeys European laws and guidelines on privacy protection. We appreciate that the data collected during the course of the project is sensitive, and it will be handled with all due considerateness and care. Most importantly this implies that:
i) All individual data will be treated anonymously
ii) No individual data (testing results) will be made public. Only company level aggregated data will be made available to employers, and only industry or country level data will be made available to the public.
iii) All data received will be handled confidentially. It will not be passed to third parties, and will be used strictly for research purposes in the domain specified in this outlines only.
iv) All researchers working on the analysis of this data have signed confidentiality agreements and apply the project’s guidelines on responsible data handling.
Participants in the LLLight’in’Europe project stand to reap great benefits. Due to the project’s innovative approach, it will generate new and implementable insights on human capital and its accumulation through Lifelong Learning. The evidence generated will allow individuals to determine how to best invest their private resources (time and money) in Lifelong Learning so as to achieve the greatest return in terms of current skills and the ability to accumulate further skill, in turn allowing the individual to improve their performance at work, job security and labour market competitiveness.
Similarly, the results will allow companies, who depend on their employees’ collective human capital for success, to enhance and target their Lifelong Learning offering to the needs and demands of their labour force, thereby optimizing their support to the individual in the creation and maintenance of their human capital. Finally, the project’s results will also allow public policy makers to optimize their Lifelong Learning investments so as to maximise economic and social well-being across the country and for each individual citizen.
If you are interested in participating in the LLLight’in’Europe project, or should you have any further queries, please contact us on info(at)lllightineurope.com.