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Public Administration: Endless Lifelong Learning

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Marvin N. Pichla
November 21, 2022

“Lifelong learning is the practice of continuing to learn throughout our entire life, especially outside of or after the completion of formal schooling.” (Dictionary.com)

No matter what occupation you become involved in there is always a push, need, suggestion or mandate toward continuous improvement. Tied tightly to the principle of continuous improvement in the workplace is the strong belief in and support for a personal/professional lifelong learning life-style.  Building your skill sets, expanding your capacities to contribute to the delivery of a product or service, are vital to retain your competitiveness as a professional. And although one would believe that organizing a lifelong learning plan in the field of public administration should be easy and natural…in reality the “moving-parts” of this profession makes Public Administration: Endless Lifelong Learning a principle responsibility challenge.

To best explain this challenge, it will be helpful to break Public Administration down into its special areas of learning.

First, consider all of the levels of government that impact the public administration profession. Federal, state, county, township, city, village, school districts and the list goes on. Each of these public service sectors has its own agreements, contracts and organizational documents that one must be continually aware of to ensure accountability and operational effectiveness. It is also necessary to take into account all of the technological factors that push lifelong learning in this area to the maximum. Virtual meetings, working from home and social media information overloads have all contributed to a sense of “endlessness” of new learning that is necessary to stay appropriately effective as a public sector employee.

A second area driving Public Administration: Endless Lifelong Learning responsibility challenges are the understandability of personality impacts. Every election season brings with it a variety of new, diversified public servant personalities. Some bring with them an open-mind, excellent qualifications, a willingness to listen and an internal drive to do the public good. Others may have sought a public official role with a single objective in mind and retain very few credentials to assist in being an effective leader/representative. Regardless of the mission/purpose of those successfully obtaining an elected official seat, those employed in a public administration position connected to the electee must learn and adapt to the uniqueness of the new official or officials…every election!

Next it is critical to examine the continuing evolution of public policy when assessing Public Administration: Endless Lifelong Learning necessity. Does any public policy really have a long-term “life expectancy”? Is it even logical to assume that what worked well in the year 2000, would still be appropriate and valid today? Retaining a “change-expectancy” approach to public policy/regulations is a highly necessary lifelong learning requirement. As was indicated earlier, every level of government has its own package(s) of operational policies. Some are simple and straight-forward, others are long and detailed. Regardless, those public administrators involved in public program service delivery must remain aware and responsible of their details for the correct/best facilitation of each initiative.

Fourth, in order to effectively and completely review the responsibility challenges related to Public Administration: Endless Lifelong Learning situations, one must also consider the private non-profit sector. The role of private non-profit organizations across this country who in so many ways expand the umbrella of public administration…also contribute to additional lifelong learning expectations. This once-removed category of government program service delivery, must also remain cognizant of regulation, eligibility and funding changes. As a result, all those employed in this sector are mandated to continuously remain involved in the learning components of every program, service and policy controlled by a specific governmental unit.

Finally but maybe most important to this Public Administration: Endless Lifelong Learning discussion are the ever-changing “customers” of our public service system. Citizens of our country, be they young, old or middle-aged, pressure our public administrative systems (and its employees) to be better, quicker, faster and smarter, which is an expectation that is justified.

At first glance one might believe that the public administration lifelong learning expectations discussed in this article paint a semi-negative view of public service employment demands. However, that is totally incorrect. Instead the intent of this article is to identify and describe the unique, ongoing, diverse, continuous improvement and lifelong learning opportunities naturally “built-into” a public administrator’s job. In most circumstances lifelong learning options and experiences “come-to-you” by way of the day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year transitions connected to every public /private non-profit sector employment opportunity. Whether the learning comes from the different levels of government interactions, the diverse personalities involved via an elected or employment situation, the ever-changing policies and regulations that guide implementation of programs/services, the expansive public sector influences that come from private non-profit connections and/or just genuine citizen-customer expectations; Public Administration: Endless Lifelong Learning involvement goes on.

Author: Marvin N. Pichla, Ph.D., is the owner and creative adviser of Inspiring Innovations, Inc. Sharing his unique entrepreneurship and innovation in public service experience, Marv consults with public and private business, education and community organizations to develop new and different problem-solving methods through real-life, example-based learning.

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