What is professional learning?
- Definition: What is professional learning?
- The importance and benefits of professional learning
- Initial professional learning and continuing professional learning
- Work-linked learning
- Other types of training and learning methods
- The practical implications of professional learning
- How to find the right professional learning for your needs?
Definition: What is professional learning?
Professional learning can be considered as all apprenticeships and training courses whose main objective is to acquire, improve or perfect skills and knowledge in a specific field or profession. It is not limited to the first years of study, but extends throughout a person’s working life, enabling them to evolve, adapt to the new demands of the job market and remain competitive.
Among the various types of professional learning are the following:
- Initial learning, which takes place immediately after school and trains the individual for a specific profession.
- Continuing learning, for employees, the self-employed or job-seekers wishing to update their skills.
- Work-study programs, which combine theory at the training center with practical experience on the job.
- Qualifying or diploma courses, which lead to a recognized level of qualification.
- Short courses, often focusing on very specific skills.
The importance and benefits of professional learning
Why train throughout life?
In an ever-changing world, lifelong learning has become a necessity rather than an option. Not only does it enable us to adapt our skills to technological and sectoral developments, it also plays a crucial role in our personal and professional development. An individual who continues to learn is more likely to access better professional opportunities, progress in his or her career and adapt to the challenges of the job market.
To illustrate this point, let’s take the example of Clara, a marketing manager who, faced with the emergence of digital technology, decided to take a course in digital marketing. This initiative not only enabled her to acquire new skills, but also gave a new impetus to her career, placing her in a leadership position in her company in the face of this new trend.
Professional and personal development
Professional learning is not just about acquiring skills or moving up the career ladder. It also contributes to personal development. Indeed, by learning and perfecting their skills, individuals gain confidence, self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.
Jean, for example, has always had a passion for photography. After several years in accountancy, he decided to take a professional learning course in photography. Today, he leads a dual career as an accountant and freelance photographer, striking a balance between his passion and his original profession. His training has not only opened new professional doors for him, but has also provided him with an invaluable source of personal fulfillment.
Initial professional learning and continuing professional learning
What is initial professional learning?
Initial professional learning is the type of training that takes place immediately after the school curriculum, generally before entry into working life. Its aim is to prepare learners for a specific trade or profession. This type of initial learning is often characterized by a high proportion of theoretical teaching, although it may also include periods of internship or apprenticeship. Its main aim is to provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to practice a trade or profession.
What is continuing professional learning?
Continuing professional learning takes place after people have entered the workforce. It is aimed at employees, the self-employed and job-seekers. Its main aim is to enable professionals to keep their skills up to date, acquire new ones or retrain. In a constantly evolving professional world, continuing learning is essential to remain competitive and meet the changing demands of business sectors.
Main differences and target audience for each type of training
A comparison of initial and continuing learning reveals several key differences:
- Timing: Initial learning takes place before people enter the job market, while continuing learning takes place throughout a career.
- Objectives: Initial learning aims to prepare employees for a specific profession, while continuing learning enables them to improve, update or retrain.
- Target audience: Initial learning is aimed primarily at school-leavers. Continuing education, on the other hand, is aimed at working professionals or those seeking employment.
Although these two types of training have the same overall objective, i.e. to train an individual, they are clearly distinguished by their timetable, specific objectives and target audience.
Work-linked learning is a teaching method that combines periods of theoretical learning in a training establishment with periods of practical learning in the workplace. This formula enables learners to acquire professional skills while being confronted with the realities of the working world. This unique combination guarantees in-depth professional immersion, enabling learners to be up and running quickly after their training.
There are two main types of work-study contract: apprenticeship and professionalization.
- Apprenticeship contract: mainly aimed at young people aged 16 to 29, this contract is designed to enable them to obtain a professional qualification leading to a diploma or professional qualification.
- Contract of professionalization: its main aim is to help young people and adults enter or re-enter working life by giving them a professional qualification. The emphasis is on practical application and adaptation to workstations.
The suitability of these contracts depends on the individual’s profile and career objectives. While an apprenticeship contract may suit a young person wishing to acquire a first qualification, a professionalization contract may suit a person wishing to requalify or specialize.
Work-linked learning is aimed at a wide range of people: school leavers, adults undergoing professional retraining, and people wishing to improve their skills. The principle is simple: after signing a contract with a company, trainees divide their time between the company and the training center. The company undertakes to provide the practical training, while the training center provides the theoretical part. At the end of the training period, the apprentice has acquired not only theoretical skills but also, and above all, concrete professional experience.
Other types of training and learning methods
Social learning and its integration into the corporate world
Social learning is based on the idea that we learn through our interactions with others. It’s not just about formal training, but also about exchanging, collaborating and sharing knowledge with colleagues, mentors and peers. In a corporate context, social learning can take the form of informal discussions, collaborative work groups or even online exchange platforms. Integrating social learning into the enterprise means recognizing the value of these spontaneous interactions and encouraging them by providing the tools and spaces necessary for them to flourish.
COOC: tailored to specific corporate needs
COOCs (Corporate Open Online Courses) are online courses designed specifically to meet the needs of a company or organization. Unlike MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which are aimed at the general public, COOCs are tailor-made and focus on skills, knowledge or issues specific to a company. They represent a flexible continuing education solution, enabling employees to learn at their own pace while benefiting from content perfectly adapted to their professional context.
Face-to-face, distance and On-the-job learning
The professional learning landscape is vast and varied, offering solutions to suit every need and every context. These solutions include
- Face-to-face learning: This is the traditional method where learners and trainers are physically present in the same place. It encourages direct interaction and immediate practical application.
- Distance learning: Thanks to digital technologies, learners can follow courses, take part in webinars or access online resources, without having to travel.
- On-the-job learning: Here, learning takes place directly in the workplace, at the heart of the action. This method combines theory and practice in real time.
Each of these methods has its own advantages and can be chosen according to pedagogical objectives, logistical constraints or learner preferences.
The practical implications of professional learning
Professional learning is not just a means of acquiring new skills; it also offers a series of tangible benefits for both company and employee.
On the company side, it boosts productivity, improves the quality of work and reduces turnover by increasing employee satisfaction and loyalty. A well-trained team is also more agile, capable of adapting to market changes and rapidly adopting new technologies.
For employees, professional learning is an opportunity for personal development, enabling them to progress in their careers, access new opportunities and gain in confidence. It also means better pay, greater job security and greater job satisfaction.
However, while professional learning has its advantages, it also has its disadvantages.
For the company, one of the main drawbacks is the associated cost. Not only is there the direct cost of training, but also the indirect costs associated with the employee’s absence. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that the employee will remain with the company after the training.
For the employee, training may mean time away from family or other personal commitments. What’s more, there’s always a risk that the training won’t live up to expectations, or that it won’t lead to the opportunities hoped for.
It is therefore essential that companies and employees weigh up the pros and cons before committing to a professional learning program.
How to find the right professional learning for your needs?
Opting for professional learning, whether initial or continuing, is an important step in your career path. Before taking the plunge, it’s essential to ask yourself the right questions. What is the main objective of the training? Is it to acquire a new skill, develop professionally or adapt to a change in your sector of activity? How does this training fit into your current and future career path? What is the expected return on investment, in terms of time and money? Finally, what is the training organization’s reputation? These questions, and many others, will help you to better target and choose the most appropriate training course.
Once you’ve decided to take a learning course, the next step is to contact the appropriate organization or institution. Depending on the type of training you are looking for, you can contact :
- Specialized schools or universities for diploma courses;
- Continuing education organizations for salaried employees;
- Chambers of commerce and industry for training specific to certain professions;
- Employment centers for state-funded training.
It’s also a good idea to consult the opinions of past participants, or ask colleagues and industry professionals for recommendations.
To find the course that best suits your needs, you need to carry out thorough research. First, clearly define your professional goals. Then compare learning programs, teaching methods, duration, cost and opportunities. Use online platforms that compile training course evaluations to get feedback. Finally, don’t hesitate to contact training organizations for more information, attend open days or even meet trainers. This process may seem time-consuming, but it’s essential if your investment in time and resources is to pay off.