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Article by 26559 Alexander Landry

Defined as the “ongoing, voluntary and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge”, lifelong learning has become a concept that parallels with success over the past decade or so. I came across this concept recently while reading Thomas Friedman’s Thank You For Being Late, a bestseller that dives into the idea of a new “Age of Acceleration” where people can no longer hope to have great careers armed with a bachelor’s degree or trades qualification due to our ever-growing capabilities in the technological and service industries. Rather, Friedman speaks of the importance of continuous learning in every sense of our person. The idea of lifelong learning and its importance is only amplified in the military today, seeing the requirements to reach greater heights in one’s career now include post-secondary education, second language profiles, and the completion of a plethora of courses and training sessions.

Courses such as ILP & ALP for NCOs, or CAFJODs (once known as OPMEs), AFODs and JCSP (much later in one’s career) are now the foundations of military education that build upon each other, taken as we progress in experience and / or rank. However, today’s reality in the CAF is that lifelong learning goes above and beyond our prescribed military courses. Candidly speaking, when I graduated from RMC after 4 long years slaving away on a B.Eng in Chemical Engineer, I promised myself I would wait a few years to start up a Master’s program or even consider becoming a full-time student again. To my surprise, when I arrived at my first regiment only one calendar year later, I found that many of my peers were already engaged in part-time, online programs of study. I was often tempted by them, and, armed with new information regarding the CAF Individual Learning Plans (ILP), I enrolled into a Master’s of Business Administration at the University of Fredericton. Further (relatively) free education from the CAF was too good to pass up and honestly an opportunity I think everyone should take advantage of (hence the drafting of this article).

Almost a year later, I’m approximately a third of the way through the MBA program. I adore the program I’m a part of and its method of delivery. Using an online platform very similar to the Defence Learning Network, and allowing for flexible assignments & exams to be taken online at our own pace, these kinds of programs are becoming quite common across the globe as the new standard for education. They are flexible for individuals committed to full time work such as the CAF. On my own time, I’ve even completed two courses while deployed. That speaks volumes to the versatility of these programs, and how they now cater to all situations of their students. Even RMC offers such programs that vary from part-time to residency including Business Administration, Public Administration, or their famous War Studies programs. The beauty of most of these programs is that they’re fully accredited, flexible as aforementioned, and support the idea of learning while working within the CAF, in fact adding value in terms of military instruction with courses that touch on CAF & governmental policies.

Recently, the current commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command, G3561 LGen Mike Rouleau, visited TF UNIFIER in Ukraine and touched on this subject during his town hall with the troops, further underlining its importance. He spoke of how missions have progressively become about the empowerment of lower ranks. This is something that is reflected daily from what I’ve seen. It’s no strange concept now to see CAF captains and master corporals advising foreign allied colonels. Nor is it an oddity to meet NCOs with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The reality is that the Canadian Forces is an incredibly professional force and, to remain at this standard of instruction and assistance to other nations among other objectives, we must continue learning throughout our career while progressing in rank, experience, and positions. To that effect, he further spoke of the importance of starting earlier on the path of lifelong learning so that the CAF can continue to produce such well-rounded, intelligent leaders at every level of command. Finally, he spoke of the crossroads we have arrived at within our organization, one where stagnation is no longer an option. Using the words of progress and decline as our options, the commander further underlined the notions I mentioned from Friedman’s text. Truly, we must embrace this idea regarding the pursuit of excellence, if not for ourselves but for the general progression of the CAF as an institution.

Overall, I now see the concept of lifelong learning not as a chore, but rather an exciting concept that can range from a hobby to an occupation. As we continue to learn, we continue to grow, which is of the utmost importance in today’s described “Age of Acceleration” as well as supported by the idea of progression versus decline. It is a concept I intend to continue exploring for the foreseeable future, as I encourage friends, family, and peers to do as well! As for Friedman’s bestseller Thank You For Being Late, I recommend it to anyone trying to understand why everything around us seems to have sped up in the past few years, or even to anyone just looking for a decent leisure read!

Further information regarding CAF education reimbursement programs is available at the following link: http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/training-paid-education/education-reimbursement.page

Further information regarding Graduate programs at RMC is available at the following link: https://www.rmc-cmr.ca/en/division-continuing-studies/graduate-programmes