Inspired to study: A month of celebrating adult learning Thursday, 16 June 2016

This week’s Blog is written by NEC team member Carly, who reflects on recent events during the annual Festival of Learning which have, for her, served as an affirmation of the importance of lifelong learning.

Working at the National Extension College, it’s hard not to be inspired everyday by our students. My favourite thing about NEC is meeting people from all walks of life, from a single working mother studying for a career as a midwife, to an 80-year-old learning a new language for the first time.

Whether you’re a student, a tutor, support staff or the friend or relative of someone working through a course, you may have seen a lot of celebration in the last few weeks for adult learning.

The month of May has seen the start of the Festival of Learning (formerly the Adult Learners Week). The festival is co-ordinated by the Learning and Work Institute (formerly NIACE) and brings people from across the country together to promote and celebrate adult learning and the transformative effects it can, and regularly does, have on people’s lives. The festival continues throughout June.

Have-a-go events and taster sessions have been held across the country and people have been joining in with a wide array of activities from learning to cycle to trying digital video production. Awards ceremonies have been held in celebration of the achievements of students, tutors, organisations and projects everywhere.

For all of you, like me, involved in adult education in some way our social media feeds have been dominated by amazing stories, and we have watched our Twitter streams with great interest in what other people would #lovetolearn (incidentally, for me it’s to play the ukulele!).

I have been lucky to attend a couple of great events which highlight the importance of continuing to learn as an adult and the changes it can make to your life and the lives of those around you.

16th-22nd of May was Learning At Work Week, a chance for employers to involve staff in workplace learning initiatives. Organised by the Campaign for Learning, awards are made to creative initiatives such as winners of the ‘Large organisation category promoting a learning culture’ award in 2015, Barclaycard.

Representatives of Barclaycard attended the reception event for Learning At Work Week and gave an overview of their winning initiative. Thousands of employees across the globe attended their digital learning fayre, a platform created specifically for the event but which has continued to be used ever since.

The reception evening was attended by training providers, employers, technology companies and subject societies came together for the same aim, encouraging employees to carry on learning while working.

MP Peter Kyle also attended the event, talking passionately about his own experience as a second-chance learner, encouraged to get back into learning by a former employer.

As well as the festivals and events that have been going on, summer is also the season of the graduation ceremony. I was honoured to attend the Open University East of England graduation ceremony last week held at Ely Cathedral.

Inside Ely Cathedral before the start of the Open University's East of England graduation ceremony
Above: The stage is set: inside Ely Cathedral before the start of the ceremony

The founder of both NEC and the Open University, Michael Young, saw a need for education opportunities for people who, as he said when launching NEC in 1963, ‘cannot turn up regularly for ordinary classes’. Watching the number of people receiving awards at just one of the Open University’s ceremonies this year really illustrates that this is just as true now as it was back then, perhaps even more so.

Like NEC students, every one of the thousands of graduates this year has their own story to tell. We saw serving members of the armed forces, people with caring responsibilities, full time employees, mothers, fathers, retired people, people with a physical disability all coming together to celebrate their momentous achievements.

The ceremony was almost overwhelming with emotion watching people from all backgrounds, ages and cultures come to an end of this part of their learning journey. Whether it was a Doctor of Philosophy being awarded or a Certificate in Early Education, all of the recipients had hard work and dedication in common.

The roof-raising cheers and applause from families and friends was testament to that hard work, and probably to having more time to spend with their loved one now that their course is complete!

I never completed my own degree and have always dreamed of finishing it one day. Like many of us I keep putting it off, using the excuse of not having enough time. Seeing the number of people collecting their awards and hearing some of their stories I feel inspired to get back to it, I aspire to be one of the people receiving my award on stage in front of my family and friends. If you share my dream I encourage you to do the same, I’ll meet you there!

One thing’s for certain, adult learners everywhere deserve our respect and admiration. You can read about some of NEC’s students on our website. If you feel inspired to learn something new, take a look at the courses on offer or call our helpful course advice team free on 0800 389 2839.

Carly Mason
Sales and Marketing Manager at NEC

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