The following blog was shared with Forge Buffalo by our Tech Hub collaborators at M&T Tech. It provides valuable insights on the importance of continuous learning, as well as a list of free remote resources to help you on your journey.

West Richter, M&T Tech Academy Program Director, and Lindsay Aleshire, M&T Tech Academy Team Lead, work within M&T Bank’s Technology Division to develop and optimize its continuous learning programs and offerings.

Our entire community has been spending a lot of time at home lately. So, it’s likely you or someone you know is participating in some form of continuous learning. Whether it’s rekindling a long-forgotten hobby or exploring a new interest, people are looking for productive ways to occupy this extended period of social distancing.

In addition to personal enrichment, continuous learning can play an important role in professional development. In that spirit, there are a number of exciting and valuable distance learning resources currently being offered at no cost.

As Western New York continues to invest in growing its tech ecosystem, our team in M&T Bank’s Technology Division – or M&T Tech – wanted to share our perspectives on the importance of continuous learning and our top picks for free tech-centric remote learning opportunities.

How continuous learning helps drive personal, regional growth

Continuous learning is the consistent development and refinement of skillsets to improve performance and stay on top of the latest trends.

For many in today’s workforce, professional development opportunities like reskilling (training to do a different job) and upskilling (learning additional skills for career advancement) are more than fringe benefits – they are seen as cornerstones of a successful modern work environment.

The Pew Research Center found that 87% of workers believe continuous learning opportunities are essential to keep pace with the changing workplace. In addition to helping individuals advance in their careers, companies that invest in continuous education can drive organizational goals and be more successful at attracting and retaining top talent. In other words, when learning becomes a priority, it can give businesses and our region a competitive edge.

Continuous learning is especially critical in tech, as the field continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

At M&T Tech, we’ve developed a Learning Philosophy to set our team up for success by focusing on beliefs and behaviors.

Beliefs form the foundation of our culture of learning and how we design the resources and programs that allow our team to do its best learning. These beliefs include: Learning should be personalized based on individual needs, and learning should be accessible to all. Behaviors are the kinds of positive habits we see from people who are successful in continuous and connected learning – such as finding opportunities to learn every day and learning from our mistakes.

We work to understand what motivates our team members and moves them forward, and we connect with each of them to identify growth objectives that highlight a commitment to personal development. By understanding our team’s objectives, beliefs, and behaviors, we’re able to tailor resources and create an environment conducive for them to maximize learning potential and continuously develop their skills.

You can translate this into your own professional development and continuous learning by taking time to identify your own beliefs and behaviors. What motivates you? Where are you in your learning journey? What knowledge gaps are you most eager to address? How do you learn best? The answers may help guide you as you take your next step.

Free courses, seminars, and resources to kickstart your learning journey now

Skilled tech workers of all levels are in high demand. Prior to the pandemic, there were more than 900,000 unfilled IT jobs in the U.S. alone (Wall Street Journal, Oct. 2019).

With an abundance of technology education resources available now, often at low to no cost, the barrier to learning a new skill or entering the technology field is lower than ever before.

Whether you are an aspiring technologist or tenured in tech, we hope you’ll find this list of free distance learning resources helpful on your journey to continued personal growth:

  • Coursera: Offers a wide variety of free courses that you can explore
  • EdX: Offers free courses from over 140 different universities
  • Lynda: Now owned by LinkedIn, Lynda offers a large library of content such as Python, Web Development, and many others. Lynda is available to New York residents for free through the New York Public Library. Use your existing NYPL account or create a new one and access Lynda through the NYPL online database.
  • Adobe Summit: The annual global summit has gone digital and all sessions are free to watch
  • Harvard University: Features over 50 courses online at no cost to attend. This includes the very popular “CS50 – Introduction to Computer Science” course
  • Free Code Camp: More than 5,000 tutorials to learn code, build projects, and earn certificates
  • The Odin Project: Provides a free open source coding curriculum that can be taken entirely online
  • Class Central: Free online courses from online Ivy League universities
  • Startup Stash: Features a collection of more than 130 links to free online learning options