National Work Life Week 2021: finding time for professional development  Wednesday, 13 October 2021

National Work Life Week, established by the not-for-profit Working Families, takes place every year between the 11th and 15th of October. It is a chance to highlight wellbeing at work and the importance of achieving a work-life balance, this year gaining particular salience as a result of a new law that codifies the right to flexible working for UK employees from day one. 

The National Extension College was founded in 1963 with the aim of opening up education to “the people who cannot turn up regularly for ordinary classes”: those who work, and especially those who do shift work or need to travel for work. These days, students who study around work might easily be joined by those who are sponsored to study by their employer as part of a professional development plan. With Covid-19 forcing the world’s hand on matters of home working, it has never been easier to integrate further study into day-to-day life. 

Preparing for an internal career change

Rhiannon was working as a Business Manager within the NHS and hoping to apply for a more senior post in NHS operational management functions. To complement her on-the-job learning, she was sponsored by her employer to take the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) Level 5 Diploma in Management and Leadership through NEC. The flexibility of this course turned out to be critical in allowing her to balance work, study, care for her two pre-school-age children, and finally a period of maternity leave. 

“My employer was happy to support the programme of learning through releasing me for a couple of hours a week if needed, and as they had paid for the programme itself, the support from them to finish the qualification was really key.”

Achieving “work-life balance” in Rhiannon’s case required a high degree of responsiveness to shifting developments in both her personal and professional life. Rhiannon’s sense of drive and commitment, NEC’s carefully designed online learning courses and her employer’s awareness of her needs all came together to facilitate her growth as a manager. 

Upskilling to release your full potential

Got ideas about including professional development in a balanced work life? Join the conversation by tweeting @NEC_Education and @workingfamUK and using #WorkLifeWeek

Aasha was already Head of Art at an academy in South East London when she enrolled with NEC. As the pressures of Covid-19 reduced access to specialised classroom spaces and made art classes more theory-based by necessity, Aasha took the opportunity to boost her offering as an educator by taking up NEC’s A level History of Art, a course developed in partnership with the Association for Art History and Art History in Schools.

“I have become better at helping students decode artwork and articulate their interpretations. My own improvements in writing critical analyses and fluency in art historical terminology has improved my teaching.”

Aasha was a winner of the Art History in Schools bursary for teachers in 2020 which meant she was able to receive financial support in order to upskill alongside her full time job. You can read more about Aasha’s experience in her own words here.

Supporting a lateral career move

In her full-time role with a large international aid organisation, Edda travelled for work frequently and needed a trusted provider to provide a course to fit her busy schedule. She had already taken a Beginner’s French course with the Open University, yet in advance of a new placement in Senegal which involved working with the government there, she felt that she needed to complete A level French

“I was told at school in year 8 that I was hopeless at languages by my French teacher – so my school did not even enter me for French O level […] I lived with this negative assessment of my language skills for a long time – yet I loved communicating with people and had a good ear for sounds. When I started to travel to and work in African Francophone countries I thought I would try again. By this time I had a good university degree and thought if I work hard, I must be able to learn French.”

Flexibility remained crucial because of Edda’s day job in development, while NEC’s experience in distance learning and status as an exam centre meant that much of the Covid-19 disruption in 2020 could be avoided. Edda now hopes to go on to complete a degree in French when she retires, but for now her responsibilities in Senegal will benefit from her access to lifelong learning opportunities. 

Read more about Edda here.

Employee satisfaction

National Work Life Week highlights the benefits to both employer and employee when it comes to facilitating personal and professional development. Online learning opens doors to improved wellbeing in the workplace by giving everybody the chance to flourish. NEC is proud to play a key part in this.

Where will your studies take you? Browse our Business and Management courses here.

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