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Lifelong Learning and the Circular Economy

Posted on: 04.03.2019
by The EREK team

The impending transition from our “take-make-dispose” society to a circular economy has been a hot topic for quite some time. Such a comprehensive enterprise, where the entirety of the traditional supply chain will have to be redefined, will require a large-scale diffusion of knowledge. Crucial to the success of the circular economy, however, is a wide-spread awareness of how to promote, implement and transform businesses to circular models. The recent ACR+ event hosted at the European Parliament focused entirely on this essential part of the ongoing transition, providing food for thought in how to handle the re-education of our current economy. 

Lifelong learning, crucial to the circular economy

So why exactly is lifelong learning so important for the success of the circular economy? First and foremost, a circular economy will require higher average requirements in terms of education, work experience and on-the-job training compared to our current economy. Moreover, circular jobs are likely to be more diverse, digitized and regionally concentrated than the current jobs. This, in turn, leads to a necessity for more diverse knowledge for employees, as well as on-the-job training to ensure a smooth transition without having a generational shift. So, while introducing circular skills in higher education may exponentially increase circular awareness over a longer timeframe, through projects such as Spark in the Netherlands, educating the current workforce remains essential. If we consider the innovative nature of this field, it also becomes clear that lifelong learning is required to both stay abreast of the latest technologies, as well as how to implement these in real-life situations. The ongoing Cycle project, specifically, will emphasize adult learning. 

Diffusing knowledge

How can we ensure that knowledge about the circular economy is well-distributed? As we have mentioned before, it all starts during the education of the next workforce. By spreading awareness in the next generation of the ongoing transition, we can ensure that the paradigm shift is present in the hearts and minds of the upcoming workforce. Through mainstreaming circular ideas in all different aspects of higher education, these principles will become commonplace. However, as we have addressed before, an emphasis on circular ideas during the ongoing education is not enough. In a smooth transition, promoting relevant competences for the current workforce is key. A partnership between the public and private sectors, with the Scottisch Switch forum being a prime example, will ensure that education and industry are given the opportunity to form a dynamic relationship. This enables knowledge diffusion to the industry, which in turn provides feedback to the academic world. Moreover, investment is required in cross-sector programs in order to encourage a deeper understanding of the circular supply-chain and the specific role of each actor.  

Get involved!

In conclusion, further investment of both time, effort and financial means will be required in both educating and re-educating respectively the future and current workforce. EREK is actively engaged in enabling European enterprises to take the initiative themselves, either through real-life events, our online knowledge platform or by promoting other online support programmes such as the cleaner production toolkit and the Circular Building Information Platform. So do not hesitate, and engage in lifelong learning yourself!