The Great Pivot: Reskilling and Upskilling for the Future

In a rapidly changing world, industries are undergoing seismic shifts, causing a ripple effect in the demand for new and advanced skills. The numbers don’t lie: LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning report highlighted that the required skillsets for modern work have transformed by 25% since 2015, anticipating this figure doubling by 2027. This evolution emphasizes upskilling and reskilling to remain relevant and employable. Let’s explore how reskilling and upskilling are helping people remain employable and adapt to an increasingly technical world.

Reskilling vs. Upskilling: What’s the Difference?

Reskilling refers to learning an entirely new set of skills. For instance, an employee from the print media sector might reskill to adapt to digital marketing.

Upskilling means enhancing current skills. Someone in IT might upskill by learning the latest coding language or framework.

Rising Skills for the Digital Age

Core skills, including management, communications, customer service, and leadership, are some of the most sought-after in today’s market, according to LinkedIn. The twist is that there’s a demand for knowledge of current tools and technology that are part of modern workflows and how employees engage with each other and on projects. Here are a few examples:

  • Management: The digital realm has transformed traditional management. Now, it encompasses overseeing remote teams, understanding digital workflows, and integrating tech solutions for productivity.
  • Communication: In today’s era, communication isn’t just face-to-face or over the phone. Mastery of digital communication tools and virtual presentation platforms and understanding the nuances of online interactions are essential.
  • Customer Service: The rise of AI chatbots and CRM platforms requires professionals to combine tech proficiency with the age-old art of human connection.
  • Leadership: Modern leadership demands a grasp of digital tools, fostering online team-building, and steering teams through remote work challenges.

New Skills Meet Societal Shifts

The evolution of skills needed in the workplace is a response to societal change; it comes in waves like new eras ushered in. Throughout history, advancements in technology and shifts in consumer behavior have consistently paved the way for new skills and professions.

In the 1970s and 1980s, for instance, the birth and rapid expansion of delivery services like FedEx (founded in 1971) and UPS (established much earlier, in 1907, but expanded globally in the latter half of the 20th century) fueled the need for sophisticated logistics and supply chain expertise, a niche previously less explored on a global scale.

Fast forward to the late 2000s, the explosion of social media platforms transformed not only the way we communicate but also the professional landscape, leading to a demand for roles such as Social Media Managers and Content Strategists, roles virtually nonexistent just a decade prior.

Now, in the wake of the AI revolution, we’re witnessing the rise of job titles like Machine Learning Engineers and AI Ethics Officers, roles that underline the complex interplay between cutting-edge technology and its societal implications. As we journey forward, history reminds us that as societal structures and technologies evolve, so does the fabric of our professional world.

Industries in Transformation

Meanwhile, requirements for many traditional roles assume digital and technology skills go with the territory. Here’s a glimpse across a few impacted industries.

  • Retail: The e-commerce surge has shifted the retail paradigm. Initiatives like Amazon’s “Upskilling 2025”, a $700 million plan, showcase efforts to equip employees with skills ranging from machine learning to advanced logistics. The program offered learning paths for employees across levels and functions. It also included tuition assistance for employees who wanted to pursue degrees or certificates in high-demand fields outside of Amazon.
  • Healthcare: Digital health records, AI diagnostics, and telehealth have transformed healthcare, necessitating professionals who are both clinically and technologically proficient.
  • Manufacturing: As smart factories become commonplace, employees need a blend of traditional craftsmanship and knowledge in areas like IoT and data analytics.
  • Finance: Digital banking, blockchain, and AI-driven strategies are reshaping finance, calling for expertise in fintech alongside traditional financial acumen.
  • Education: With the digital classroom revolution, educators are doubling as tech experts, adapting to new-age teaching methodologies.

Workforce Development Initiatives: Leading the Way

Beyond Amazon’s commendable “Upskilling 2025” mentioned above, other giants are leading the charge:

  • JP Morgan Chase: The financial services company launched “New Skills at Work” in 2019, a 5-year $350 million initiative. JPMorgan Chase aims to prepare its workforce for the future of finance, emphasizing skills like digital literacy and data analytics.
  • Google: The tech giant created a similar upskilling initiative in 2017 called Grow with Google, which has trained over 3 million U.S. workers on digital skills through a robust partner network of schools, libraries, and nonprofits. Workers are getting the skills to apply for jobs in today’s marketplace. Google also offers online courses and certifications on topics such as AI, data science, cloud computing, and digital marketing through its platforms, such as Coursera, Udacity, and Google Digital Garage.
  • Intuit: The software company launched a multi-pronged approach to upskill its workforce for AI in 2018. The programs involved online courses, lunch sessions, boot camps, and apprenticeship programs on natural language processing, computer vision, machine learning, and data engineering.

Embracing the Learning Curve

As per LinkedIn, 89% of L&D professionals believe in proactively developing employee skills to navigate the future work landscape. This sentiment is echoed by employees, with PWC’s report highlighting that 74% of workers desire to develop their skills to maintain employability. This mutual enthusiasm for learning showcases the importance of skill development initiatives and the value they bring to both individuals and organizations. With companies and employees equally eager to embrace ongoing learning, getting over the learning curve is part of what it takes to stay relevant.


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