L&D QuestionTime – Julia Wright

With Learning at Work Week rapidly approaching we hear the views of Julia Wright – National Director of Campaign For Learning.

In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development?

I’m not sure if I would call it an anxiety, but for the UK the new Apprenticeship Levy due to start in April 2017 is likely to be a big concern. We’re doing a lot of work at the Campaign on how this (pretty radical) policy will play out. As a tax, it will affect businesses whether they are delivering apprenticeships or not. For big businesses, levy amounts could be significant and this means training and development budgets will be under the microscope. Recouping the Levy will involve engagement with government approved training, which will potentially require some serious planning and realignment for companies who will be affected.

Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

I’m pretty eclectic and I blame the internet for my sleep deprivation. Marketing thinking and practice have always been central to the Campaign’s work including our expertise in learning campaigns – the approach that underpins Learning at Work Week – so I keep on top of trends and thinking from across this discipline. Human-centred, co-creation approaches which start with a problem or challenge offer huge potential value for learning and development. Behavioural economics, the digital world, technology…there is so much interesting stuff out there that it’s important to keep grounded and keep asking questions of how it could help in a particular context – with research, understanding issues for business and employees and being part of a solution.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning

I don’t really think of innovation as ‘out there’. I think it’s as useful (and sometimes more exciting) to see innovation as what you do differently in your own space and context to address specific issues – to achieve this, you may of course borrow from and draw on new tools and ideas from outside, but your starting point should be an identifiable need and you should be in charge!

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

I’d like to see us digging a bit deeper and getting a richer understanding of who are the people in our workplaces. This knowledge can be used to develop learning opportunities that engage and inspire – including learning that is not instrumental for work as this has business benefits too. We often, and understandably, plan and deliver learning using segmentations such as roles, responsibilities, levels and how we like to learn, because these have recognisable meaning for work performance. Different segmentations – lifestages, skills levels, passions, ambitions, barriers to learning, digital inclusion, levels of agency and training spend, to name a few – can offer starting points for designing more nuanced, personalised and more effective ways of delivering learning that supports people to get on at work and in their wider lives.

At the Campaign, we’re passionate about promoting the importance of extending learning opportunities to everyone. This includes colleagues who may traditionally be seen as not needing development outside mandatory training.  To do this effectively requires deeper understanding of where they are and what they want to get from learning.

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2020?

Everything starts with learning, so I hope by 2020 L&D will be increasingly at the centre of designing collaborative approaches which address business challenges and drive opportunities.

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

At 21, I was playing in a band, working at a stockbrokers and on the verge of setting up a business making skateboard and surfwear. My worst fear was being pinned down and feeling under pressure to choose ‘a career’. So I’d say don’t worry too much, follow your passions, there’s plenty of time ahead – and you never know, one day there might be something called ‘portfolio careers’ which completely values lots of and different experiences and strands to your working life.

About Julia Wright: 

Julia is the National Director for the Campaign for Learning, a national not-for-profit that champions learning for all ages and all stages in life. She has worked at the Campaign since 2000. She leads the workplace learning team which co-ordinates Learning at Work Week nationally, and is also resposible for the Campaign’s policy programme which analyses the impact of government policy on learning and skills.  After running a business, she returned to full-time education and studied Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University.

Twitter @lawweekwire #learningatworkweek
Facebook www.facebook.com/learningatworkweek

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