Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Good News For Association Education Courtesy of Generation X

No his mind is not for rent
To any god or government
Always hopeful yet discontent
He knows changes aren't permanent
But change is....Rush, Tom Sawyer

Here is the link to the video for those who can't see the embed.

It seems fitting to feature Rush again here on the Association Subculture in light of their recent (OVERDUE IMHO) induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I just read the latest installment in the University of Michigan longitudinal study on us Gen Xers - Lifelong Learning: Generation X Illustrates the New Reality - and it contains some great news for associations.  Generation X is the first generation to fully embrace the need for lifelong learning and they show every sign of continuing their pursuit of quality education that will make them competitive in the workplace.

More importantly, Generation X is embodying a larger cultural shift that no longer sees a linear life path - (school, college, career, retirement) but is embracing a more latticed approach that weaves education throughout a life that may include skipping college for a while and working, going back to school, pursuing certifications and licensing, and changing careers a number of times.  It's a more fluid approach to life that is actually more sustainable over the long term and opens up a ton of opportunities for associations.

Far from being outdated, we are actually on the cusp of being able to provide educational solutions that can satisfy Generation X members and the younger generations that will follow.  According to the report, Generation X learners tend to actively pursue activities that break down into three recognizable categories:

  • Formal courses leading to degrees at various levels – associate, baccalaureate, graduate, and professional.
  • Courses and workshops that lead to licenses, certificates, and other recognition within professions and occupations.
  • Informal learning and skill acquisition that may not be directly job related but which may advance an individual's ability as a consumer, a parent or a voter.
Associations can obviously impact the second category, but we can spill over into the other two as well.  Why not expand our educational offerings to create more informed consumers, parents and voters?  We do government affairs well, but we can do better.  And we can create partnerships in the formal system too (if it still exists in the same form it is in over time which is currently up for debate but is the subject of another post).

According to this report. 32% of employed Generation Xers work in jobs that require licensing which includes ongoing education and an additional 16% are working in jobs that require ongoing education to achieve and maintain certification.  Our audience is here, we just have to continue to make our case in new and better ways.  Real learning happens in the presence of strong relationships - isn't that what we say we are all about?

Although I interpret these statistics to mean we are nowhere near extinct, and we have opportunities on the horizon that are even better than we had before, we do continue to suffer from educational programs that need more sophisticated delivery systems, excellent educators to lead them and a conference system that is a little on the antiquated side.  If we don't remain seriously focused on professional development and career assistance, there are others waiting in the wings who want to put us out of business. 

However, if we rise to this challenge, and expand our educational offerings into those other areas mentioned above where we have clear opportunities and maybe even some advantages, we are going to be in an excellent position over the long term.

Education. Networking. Democracy.  Let's get back to it...the numbers are on our side.


  1. Great write-up! Writing is a talent, and it must not be wasted. As with everything that we had been entrusted, we should let it grow and share it with the world.>self directed education


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