Adult education helps to close the digital gap and provides individuals with digital competences, which are key to personal fulfillment, employment, social inclusion and active citizenship.

Today’s society is in the process of responding to the fourth industrial revolution: digitalisation. It is disrupting labour markets and fundamentally altering the nature and future of work and education and training. Understanding the opportunities, challenges and impact of digitalisation on work and learning is important for every adult engaged in lifelong learning. It is key to supporting personal fulfilment and development, employability, social inclusion and active citizenship. Everyone now needs to have a sufficient level of digital competence in order to play an active part in society.

Urgent need to update digital skills

EAEA is deeply concerned that 43% of the European adult population do not have basic digital skills. Adults who do not possess a sufficient level of such skills face a high risk of social exclusion. By 2024, roles requiring digital skills will grow by 12%. The ability to manipulate digital tools will become critically important in the next 5 years. (Source: Accenture: New Skills Now. Inclusion in the digital Economy). 

The ability to seize the opportunities provided by digitalisation, however, is not evenly distributed. Vulnerable and marginalised adults could face a double disadvantage in the future, due to a lack of awareness of, or the means to adapt to, these changes. EAEA recognises the importance of ensuring all adults have access to education and training for both basic and intermediate digital skills.

Technology is also altering the future of teaching and learning, providing a myriad of tools to enhance the way we educate, teach and learn. It is important that educators utilise these tools to improve their work, creating communities of practice, sharing knowledge and skills. What is needed therefore is improved access to infrastructure and training.

Digitalisation has already changed and will continue to change our living circumstances, mobility, environments, communication and most other areas of life. This will also alter the life skills necessary to manage these changes and the needs of learners to participate in society. Adult education provides the necessary life skills but also anticipates and shapes future developments.

Research evidence

Businesses should take an active role in updating the digital skills of the current workforce. 

The World Economic Forum publication (2016) Global Challenge Insight Report: The Future of Jobs – Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution concludes that it is simply not possible to weather the current technological revolution by waiting for the next generation’s workforce to become better prepared.
Instead it is critical that businesses take an active role in supporting their current workforce through re-training, that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning and that governments create the enabling environment, rapidly and creatively, to assist these efforts.

Good practice

A programme in the Netherlands helps refugees upgrade their digital skills. 

HackYourFuture is an educational programme that helps refugees in the Netherlands learn computer programming and become full-stack web developers. The programme is focused on quickly teaching students how to program and develop in-demand skills for the job market and connects students with companies that hire programmers. In
other words, the programme works with project-based learning, where students are challenged to develop their own ideas, build things together and learn while doing.

Most of the learning in the programme is being done online via an educational website but there are meetings every weekend in Amsterdam. Within months of their first lessons, refugees start building their own projects. The graduates have been placed in jobs and internships with multiple companies all over the Netherlands.