Lifelong learning: 5 inspirations for a new digital workforce.

Margaux Pelen
Published in
5 min readMar 2, 2016


Ready to go back (and forth) to school? (Credits: Ecole 42 — Figaro Etudiant)

A few weeks ago, I was asked to source alternatives to classical European schools for top talent, focusing on “collaborative” and “learning to learn” skills. Inspired by the fact that a large French company was taking serious interest in this space, and encouraged by this research, I thought I would share a few players, trends, and insights from this emerging movement towards lifelong learning. This boom towards “the continuous development and improvement of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfilment” is inspiring in many ways.

What are the latest trends and approaches in lifelong learning?

1/ Peer-to-peer learning (i.e. participatory learning that allows students to learn through project-based learning).

Whether you’ve always been interested in coding or took an intermediate step with a First career in a non-related topic, Ecole 42 is a French coding school that embraces this peer-to-peer learning approach for all levels. There’s no teacher but instead, a whole gamified experience that pushes you to learn alone and based on your peers. Thoughts: Ecole 42 is praised as being super innovative and leads the path to new schools around the globe (Holberton School in SF, We Think Code in South Africa) but I’d be curious to see it in other fields: do we need teachers in all disciplines and how can they become knowledgable mentors? I’m currently mentoring for the “Digital Entrepreneur” program between HEC Paris & Ecole 42 and find it super inspiring from a business & learning perspective.

2/ Programs focusing on holistic development (i.e. developing attitudes and transversal competences instead of a specific job-related knowledge)

Hyper Island was founded in 1996 in Sweden and focuses on understanding digital culture, the media, and transformative technology as well as how these affect “ideation, execution, workflows, client collaboration and business models”. They don’t necessarily focus on a specific job-related knowledge but more on skills that can be used in different work environments (beyond their status of employee or freelancer). Thoughts: Many players seem focused on collaboration, creativity or empathy but how can you learn these non-cognitive skills in practice? This school seems to be an efficient hands-on experience.

3/ Bootcamp (i.e. dive into coding through a two-month long program to become a “fullstack” developer — familiar with all layers of softwares)

The concept is simple: code, code, code. These intense learning experiences are becoming more prevalent across Europe but Paris-based Le Wagon is especially inspiring in this regard: they provide creative people a solid tech toolbox to give life to their ideas. It’s expanding quickly with current operations in 5 French and 4 European cities - and more is yet to come. Thoughts: what you buy is both the current practical education and the “follow-up tips” from the community you’re joining.

4/ Retraining with your peers (i.e. use what you already know and are already working on to bridge with a new job/industry)

For those who already have a solid understanding of data, Data science retreat (Berlin) is designed to interface high-level profiles with the job market both with technical and business skills. Thoughts: I’m very much looking forward to those “retrain programs” that take into account what you’ve been doing (skills & knowledge) and help you unlock the next challenge using familiar patterns.

5/ Microlending for education (i.e. invest in learners so they can have more opportunities)

Online content makes coding accessible virtually everywhere and the Denmark-based Coderstrust has figured out how to leverage this well. Their model is simple: they invest time and money in IT students and get a commission on all the freelance jobs they perform afterwards. Coderstrust provides a Trustscore for each student and combines a “Learn & Earn” approach: they teach tech skills and help students market themselves on freelance platforms (such as Upwork). Thoughts: As Stéphane Kasriel, Upwork’s CEO framed it during the next:economy conference in November, workers should be considering lifelong learning as a key driver and go back and fourth between jobs & learnings to have more opportunities. This model is aligned with this statement.

So, what’s the connection between the 5 models?

1/ We are redefining the education-to-employment signals: All of the above-mentioned models have to continuously innovate new ways to interact with the corporate world. They have to make sure they can meet ever-changing market needs and that what their “graduate” can clearly deliver.

Berlin’s Big data partners (homepage)

2/ Alumni as lifelong social learning network: The new programs go way beyond the classroom, transforming the learning phase into an “onboarding” process to join the community. Participants are joining online as well as physical learning communities that let them track new tools, content and talents in their specific field.

Le Wagon — Leveraging on all batches through Slack

3/ Content is the bait, people the premium: Content creation and curation are a way to attract new learners: it is often given for free or at a cheap price — when digitalized, it doesn’t cost more for the company to share anyway. The premium version highlights the engagement with fellow learners and dedicated attention, for example with 1:1 mentor sessions.

Step 2 to join CodersTrust — Only curation, no more content for the testing.

Anything I’ve missed? Want to talk about this? Hit me up. Thank you for those who helped me gather those new players!



Margaux Pelen

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