European Youth Portal
Information and opportunities for young people across Europe.

Work and learn

The first half our lives is invested into learning – we start with general education, and continue with institutions of higher education.

The first half our lives is invested into learning – we start with general education, and continue with institutions of higher education. Although it may seem that learning is confined with general and higher education, this conception is actually deceptive because learning continues in everything we do.

As a great portion of our days is spent on working, learning at work represents one of the principal forms of out-of-school and non-formal education. Although, learning while working may also have formal aspects, because various trainings, courses, seminars and work-related studies provide you with a diploma and reflect in your curriculum vitae.

Many jobs presuppose that the applicants already possess the knowledge and skills required for performing the duties. However, in several cases the employers educate new employees, because the business is too specific, complex or novel. Although labourers are definitely able to learn the peculiarities of a new job within time, a proper training is generally more expeditious and effective. Of course, there are also workplaces which are exposed to hazards or involve very complicated processes, and occupational training is then required by law.

Yet there are numerous workplaces where trainings and vocational courses are not organized, and a newcomer is expected to learn the trade on his own and with the help of his colleagues. Undoubtedly, we obtain a great extent of new knowledge also without noticing it. Only retrospective analysis may reveal how much we have learnt and developed at work. For example, we might improve our communication skills and know-how of negotiations as well as establishing, expanding and maintaining a client base. Although these abilities can also be taught, more genuine and profound acquisition of skills takes place via experiences. Specific positions might give us proficiency in laying a beautiful table, mixing exquisite cocktails, writing e-mails which comply with the highest standards, giving emergency aid in a fast and efficient way, etc. For sure, several jobs enhance computer skills and provide employees with exhaustive know-how of specific programs. Jobs and workplaces expand our circle of contacts and diversify our social network – we encounter new friends, acquaintances, experiences and hobbies. Indeed, it seems to be a fact that we all learn while working and it takes simultaneously place covertly and overtly!

On the other hand, the title “Work and learn” can also be interpreted in a different way. Studying and working at the same time is actually extremely popular in Estonia and majority of university students are also employed. In other words – they work while learning. Many students work in order to improve their financial situation and to be less dependent on their parents. Several students work because they wish to obtain experiences of various fields and desire to figure out their preferences of a future job. University years enable to take part-time jobs in various vocational sectors and to experiment with different positions – demands are usually less severe, but experiences still give an image of respective occupations. Students acquire thereby some work-related experiences and get a clearer overview of their perspectives for a future qualification.

Whichever are the choices we make, it is certain that we learn and evolve throughout our lives. We gain new knowledge even from daily tasks performed at home – for example, we learn how to cook more delicious meals, how to clean faster, how to wash dishes or windows more effectively. Learning takes place day after day, whether we like it or not.