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Once Edmond Chiu shook off the anxiety of being back in school, surrounded by high achievers, he quickly rediscovered his passion for learning.

What Mr. Chiu did not anticipate was how much his enthusiasm would also spill over into his job performance.

Inspired by his executive MBA studies on how business works "from a macro, visionary perspective," Mr. Chiu feels that, midway through his studies, he is already more effective in his role as director of information security and risk management at Moneris Solutions, a Toronto-based payment processing company.

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Like the majority of Canadians recently surveyed by Statistics Canada about their attitudes toward learning, Mr. Chiu resumed his education primarily out of a love of learning and to better perform at his job now, rather than just as a way to try to get ahead.

The survey, designed by the Canadian Council on Learning and administered this spring by Statistics Canada, found that 73.4 per cent of adults who take work-related training are motivated by the desire to learn something new, and almost 69 per cent take courses to perform more effectively in their current jobs.

For just 32.5 per cent, the reason for taking courses is to boost their earning power and 31 per cent said they are bucking for promotion.

Whatever motivates working Canadians to continue their educations -- whether they take courses for the sheer love of learning or out of a desire to advance -- there is no question that the acquisition of new skills and knowledge improves their prospects and opportunities, says Monika Morrow, a vice-president and national practice leader with Right Management, a Toronto-based consulting firm.

"Education no longer ends with just the completion of formal schooling and acquiring degrees," Ms. Morrow says. "Building a skills portfolio . . . is a continuous process."

Employees should take the initiative to find out what sort of training their employers offer in-house and what sort of financial support they might provide for courses taken outside of work. Those who take advantage of training opportunities get noticed, Ms. Morrow says.

"As an employer, you are looking for someone who has a commitment to his or her own development, who has a commitment to his or her own career management and who is a valuable asset to the organization."

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Mr. Chiu, after 15 years working in information technology and auditing, says he wanted to learn more about business and management. He says the MBA program has helped him gain a much better feel for the strategic direction of his business, which operates as a joint venture of the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank of Canada. He is also better able to provide the business context for various initiatives to the employees who report to him.

Since he started his part-time MBA studies in February at the Mississauga campus of the University of Western Ontario, Mr. Chiu has improved his performance rating in all categories at work, winning accolades from his bosses, co-workers and employees in a "360-degree performance evaluation" on management and leadership skills, communication skills, capability and staff development.

While his reasons for enrolling in the program were to boost his knowledge now, he figures whatever he gains will also pay off later in helping him move to the next level of his career.

David Budd, a partner at the business law firm Cassels Brock and Blackwell LLP, also believes he is performing more effectively after hitting the books with 24 of his colleagues in a "mini-MBA course" offered by his firm earlier this year.

Although Mr. Budd is a relatively recent graduate -- he was called to the bar in 2000 -- he feels the need "to continue to learn and enhance my understanding of both business models and financial reporting.

"I'm doing my job better and serving my clients' needs better as I improve my understanding in these areas," Mr. Budd says.

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The course was delivered in-house at Cassels Brock by visiting professors from the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and was designed to help the firm's lawyers provide better legal advice by expanding their knowledge of business issues, says Deborah Glatter, a litigation lawyer and director of professional development and student programs.

"A mantra that we always repeat to our young associates is: Do you know what's keeping your client up at night? What are the business issues worrying your client? You can't give good legal advice in a vacuum," Ms. Glatter says.

She expected the firm's youngest members to attend -- "they are always at everything and anything we offer" -- but was struck by the number of mid-level and senior partners who signed up and have now asked the firm to provide a second, more advanced course.

"Law is extraordinarily competitive," Ms. Glatter says. "We have office towers downtown filled with excellent lawyers, so how are you going to set yourself apart? One of the ways we set ourselves apart is by adding value."

The best way to add value is to keep learning, Mr. Budd says. "I don't think you can say, 'I went to law school and I have finished learning.' That's just not the reality we live in."

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Who's hitting the books

Younger Canadians more likely to take work-related training.

Percentage on non-retired Canadians who have taken work-related training in the past year, by age

20-24: 66%

25-34: 50%

35-44: 44%

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45-54: 31%

55-64: 30%

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Canadians with higher education are more likely to take work-related training

Percentage of non-retired Canadians who have taken work-related training in the past year

Less than high school: 12%

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High school: 26%

College: 43%

University: 63%

SOURCES: CANADIAN COUNCIL OF LEARNING AND STATISTICS CANADA SURVEY OF 5,000 ADULT CANADIANS

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Training for work

Why Canadians take work-related training

Did you participate in work-related education and training... Proportion who answered "yes"
To learn something new? 73.40%
To perform more effectively in your current job? 68.8
To earn more money? 32.5
Because your employer required you to? 30.9
To get a better job? 30.8
To get or keep a certificate or licence? 30.7
To complete a diploma or degree? 25.1
To get a job? 17.6
To pursue an advanced degree? 16.1
For none of these reasons 3
To meet a requirement for social assistance? 1.2

SOURCES: CANADIAN COUNCIL OF LEARNING AND STATISTICS CANADA SURVEY OF 5,000 ADULT CANADIANS

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