What is Lifelong Learning?
By Randall C. Resch
What does lifelong learning mean to you? Last month, 26 towers of varying experience levels and abilities attended a weekend tow operator's safety course. Throughout the two-day class, I witnessed that more than half the drivers weren't involved, didn't want to learn and were openly unmotivated. Most claimed they had lots of experience, but offered nothing to the class environment over the two days.
When class was nearly ended, we'd routinely go around the room asking participants what they got from class or if they learned anything new. I was amazed by the number of towers who replied, "No, I didn't learn anything new."
I spoke with two owners attending the class. They openly shared their disdain ... because they also thought they didn't need to be in class.
It bothers me when tow owners say that they too didn't learn anything—although I know they haven't attended a safety course in more than 20 years.
I wasn't impressed.
Because their lack of involvement was painfully evident, I carefully evaluated my own teaching techniques to make sure I wasn't boring them to death. But, after talking to a couple of more motivated participants, I confidently determined the lethargic group of drivers weren't happy with their jobs mostly because they were forced to attend a safety class and give up their weekend.
No one likes to be forced into something they don't want to do.
So, shouldn't management be responsible to stimulate employee motivation and ensure their drivers gain experience and competency through learning? Doesn't that come from setting an example?
How is it possible to attend class for 16 hours and not learn anything new? Does that equate to lack of individual motivation?
Motivation comes from within; it's a behavioral trait all towers have or lack.
Lifelong learning is defined as "The ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons."
Therefore, it not only enhances social inclusion, active citizenship, and personal development; but also self-sustainability—rather than competitiveness and employability.
How do you compare?
No matter what path in life we choose, I believe there's room to advance one's education and abilities. Ours is an industry that can't rely on "learn it once and then be done." Experience only comes from continued lifelong learning. As most states mandate training requirements for tow operators serving law enforcement, attending class is the perfect opportunity to get a little industry tune-up, no matter how experienced one might feel.
I'll honestly say that I've never attended any class where I didn't come away with something. In today's age of vicarious liability and huge focus on tow operator negligence, you can be sure that my mind is wide open to whatever it takes that keeps me educated, out of jail and far from harm's way.
The industry demands lifelong learning. Only you can decide if that's a path you'll take.
Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operation's Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line. Randall is a 2014 inductee into the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame.