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Adult education is on the rise again: what and how should we learn in 2024?

In 2022, more than 100,000 people took part in adult education, probably even more last year, although no final figures are available. According to Ákos Zsuffa, president of the Association of Adult Educators, the most popular areas of training included software development, business skills, finance and marketing. Although most training is available online, a recent large-scale survey shows that almost half of adult learners still believe in classroom-based training.

The Covid era has also shaken up adult education. Digital channels became temporarily dominant, and those providers who could not adapt quickly enough lost significant market share. But the labour market has changed a lot too, with the effects of a severe labour shortage a few years ago and then changing labour demand linked to the ups and downs of the construction boom also clearly visible in the feedback from participants. And the economic difficulties at company level can be strongly traced in the demand for training in finance, controlling and cost management. The Sämling Business Training Centre has been collecting feedback from participants in its training courses, or those who are only interested in its courses at the moment, for years, and has been collecting their opinions on the most typical indicators of adult education in their country. The aggregated data of their latest survey of 1000 respondents at the end of 2023 are now published on HR Portal. They provide an interesting insight into the motivations of adult learning participants.

The need to develop in the employee's current field of expertise and job (62%) is very strongly dominating the choice of motivation for training, which could of course be a key step for a later change or becoming a manager. Nearly 17 percent want a career change when enrolling on a course, and just over 6 percent are looking for courses because of their leadership ambitions.

Although everything shifted to the online space during Covid's time - many company activities, some meetings, providing back office support, etc. remain on digital platforms for convenience or other practical reasons - life has since returned to the way it was in many ways. It is therefore practical to look at the situation in the area of training and development. 

The most effective form of training is considered to be face-to-face, classroom-based training (preferred by 46%), 30% prefer to learn through live online training, 13% prefer to learn from e-learning materials that can be accessed at any time, while one in ten respondents prefer group training organised at the workplace. In other words, the majority prefer to learn live and in person.

What has the change in the environment brought?

From 2021, the adult education system has changed completely, the traditional OKJ list has been abolished, and with it the previous training courses have disappeared and merged. The OKJ courses with 766 occupations have been replaced by 174 state-recognised, school-based basic occupations. Under the new system, basic vocational qualifications can now only be obtained at vocational training centres. In business-based adult education centres, instead of the previous OKJ courses, there are 73 sub-specialisations and more than 500 qualifications based on so-called programme requirements. HR Portal asked Ákos Zsuffa, President of the Association of Adult Educators (FVSZ), about his experiences in the year since then.

Last year was the first full year after the end of the OKJ courses. What is the experience in adult education, has the field suffered a major break?

Ákos Zsuffa: Training courses have become more flexible, participants can choose between different forms and durations of training. The content of the courses has become more modern and practice-oriented. Reducing the administrative burden has become a good direction, but there are areas - such as training for public authorities - where double reporting and data reporting obligations have been introduced, but there is no need to upload the schedule for training courses.

Has this changed in the last year and a half, or has the sector "stagnated"?

After the initial turbulence, the sector has started to "adjust" as institutions, trainers and participants alike have adapted to the new system. The adult learning market is constantly evolving and the introduction of new methods and technologies has helped to stabilise it. At the same time, trainers have been hit hard by inflation, which could not be passed on to the potential pool of participants hit by the crisis. In training private individuals, there is currently a downturn until the start of meaningful tenders.

What are the options now for those who want to learn/change a profession?

For those who want to learn a profession or prefer to change, the school system can be a solution. In addition, there are a variety of options: new market-oriented training, online courses, competence development programmes, typically hybrid/online, in a flexible way. These vary in length and price, and in many cases can last from a few days or months to one or two years. At the same time, higher education is moving towards shorter, more specialised courses, such as the 1-year Master's degree.

Which courses are popular?

Within vocational training, the following are available within the occupational groups: Business and Management, Law Enforcement and Public Service, Agriculture and Forestry, and Electronics and Electrical Engineering (with sub-skills also Construction). Machine operator (forklift, crane, etc.) training is still popular with both companies and individuals, is mainly provided by adult education providers and can be completed in a few weeks. According to data from the National Employment Service (NES), more than 100,000 people took part in adult training in 2022. The most popular fields of training included software development, commercial skills, finance and marketing. Internationally, McKinsey's "The Future of Work in Europe" study found a growing demand for jobs requiring higher skills such as IT, financial services, real estate and education. And international trends suggest that in the next five years there will be high demand for labour in the following areas: artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, social media, software development, environment, healthcare, education.

What areas are people moving from and to?

Some examples: from manufacturing to IT and technology: manufacturing workers often move into IT and technology sectors where programming, data management and networking skills are useful. From financial sector to digital marketing: financial professionals, such as bank employees and accountants, are moving into digital marketing and e-commerce, where their analytical skills can be put to good use.

Where is there demand for graduates?

Blue, or blue-collar sector, increasingly so. There is serious competition from third-country nationals. In industrial professions, trainers have found that skilled e.g. Filipino guest workers come with a stronger training background. Due to labour shortages, the internal labour market of organisations is providing opportunities as a potential workforce, so internal training/retraining is also becoming more popular. For recent graduates who have not only the knowledge but also the skill/ability/attitude based on the classical competency model, they are absorbed by the labour market anywhere.

What are online certificates good for?

Micro-training" - training leading to a micro-certificate - can have a number of benefits for both employees and employers. From an employer's perspective, they can provide new, quickly acquired skills that can make your job more effective; help you on your career path, in new positions, retraining; and provide evidence of your learning achievements, which can give you an edge in the job market.  It also benefits employers by demonstrating employees' skills and experience, which helps recruitment and performance appraisal; it encourages continuous learning and development; it improves the company's competitiveness in the labour market, helps retain the best employees and attract new ones. Overall, micro-certification is a flexible and cost-effective way for employees to acquire new skills and knowledge and for employers to assess employees' skills and experience. Microcertificates are gaining ground in the labour market and are expected to play an even more important role in the future.

You can read the original article in Hungarian here


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