Written by: Joe Emerson // Aug 11, 2020
Last updated: Aug 11, 2020
Want to know why now is the time for upskilling and reskilling? It’s because businesses are facing a syzygy of megatrends, a global pandemic, and the capacity for exponential change in, arguably, the post-digital age. (It’s arguable because the “experts” disagree on whether it has begun.) More simply put: The digital and historical stars have aligned.
What Does That Mean?
Any sentence using the word “syzygy” risks achieving grievous density, but how often do you get a chance to correctly use a word that has no vowels? It simply means the alignment of three things, typically celestial bodies. In this case, however, the three things are:
Megatrends: These, per Oxford University Press, are an “important shift in the progress of a society or of any other particular field or activity; any major movement.” In 2016, PricewaterhouseCoopers identified five evolving megatrends and their implications for global defense and security:
- Shift in global economic power
- Demographic shifts
- Accelerating urbanization
- Rise of technology
- Climate change and resource scarcity
Capacity for exponential change: This, in large part, is driven by needs arising from the five megatrends and benefits of nascent technology. That brings us back to “post-digital,” which signals not the end but the advance of the digital age.
Global pandemic: Enter the coronavirus in the role of accelerant. What COVID-19 has done for remote work is an example of the capacity for exponential progress enabled by the rise of technology and technical advances that can help us adapt to and overcome the implications of the aforementioned megatrends.
All that brings us to why now is the time for upskilling and reskilling.
The Stars Align for Upskilling, Reskilling
Accenture posted an article in February 2019 titled “The Post-Digital Era Is Coming: Are You Ready?” It opens with this statement: “The pace of technological change sweeping boldly across business and society is breathtaking.”
It does take the breath away when measured in terms of the wallet:
- $1.25 trillion was spent globally on the digital transformation of business and society in 2019.
- $1.97 trillion was the projection for similar spending globally in 2022.
The Accenture article was written in the context of digitized machines replacing workers, including applications using artificial intelligence. Beyond metal and microchips, the breathtaking pace of the transformation was facilitated by upskilling and reskilling workers.
Upskilling and reskilling both mean improving and/or adding skills; they differ in respect to the application of those skills. Upskilling the workforce means sharpening or adding skills to further workers’ ability to do their existing jobs. Reskilling the workforce means preparing employees for different jobs.
When COVID-19 struck, businesses had access to the technology needed to enable remote working. In 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said 29 percent of wage and salary workers in the U.S. could work from home. Things change. The number of Americans always or sometimes working from home because of COVID-19 hit 70 percent by mid-April 2020, according to a Gallup poll.
That was a rapid shift born of necessity. There was an even more rapid shift caused by the coronavirus. Remote learning became the norm at all levels of education. How quickly? Students at USF left the campus for spring break 2020 and were notified during their absence that their return would be to virtual classrooms. Resources, human and digital, were brought to bear, and the process worked.
This is about business, and business is about bottom lines. Here it is: Employers, workers, students, and faculties facing extraordinary circumstances exhibited the personal and technical capacity for exponential change. That, finally, brings us to the “why now” in regard to upskilling and reskilling.
On Turning Lemons into Lemonade
So, good things can come from bad times. Consider that World War I revolutionized medicine – in a good way.
There’s another syzygy at play here: the push for remote work, the race to operate virtual classrooms, and the realization that both have been and can be productive. Aligned, those things point to the future, and not just the one that includes the coronavirus, which has served as a change accelerator.
WorldatWork cites reskilling occurring in real time at workplaces:
- Disruption in supply chains and business models forcing reallocation of workers into unfamiliar jobs
- Talent-sharing deals allowing furloughed workers from one company to fill empty slots at others
That’s not traditional reskilling, but it’s functional and effective, much like the digital training workers and students unfamiliar with virtual workplaces and classrooms got in a hurry when the pandemic struck.
Students who pre-pandemic had shied away from virtual classes because of the technical learning curve now have virtual learning skills. And Global Workplace Analytics had these headlines in a report on its Global Work from Home Experience Survey, which queried workers affected by COVID-19:
- Survey Reveals 76 Percent of Global Office Workers Want to Continue Working from Home post-COVID-19
- Demand for U.S. Office Space Could Shrink by over a Billion Square Feet as a Result
It appears students and workers have an affinity for change and are infinitely adaptable. Technology enabled them to meet educational challenges or get upskilled and reskilled from a distance. In the shift to e-workplaces, pollsters are hearing more yays than nays from workers. The New York Times cites a Gallup survey that found “almost 60 percent of Americans working from home would prefer to work remotely ‘as much as possible’ after restrictions are lifted.”
It’s worth noting that for many students and workers, upskilling and reskilling are part of the transition to virtual classrooms and workplaces. For workers, it’s just a matter of which skills they need to upgrade or add:
Soft skills: teamwork, positivity, adaptability, creative thinking, communication, work ethic, time management, motivation, problem-solving, conflict resolution, critical thinking
Hard skills (identified by LinkedIn as the top skills sought by employers in 2020): blockchain, cloud computing, analytical reasoning, artificial intelligence, UX (user experience) design, business analysis, affiliate marketing, sales, scientific computing, video production
Once you decide how to customize your skill set, it’s time to get schooled. Going brick-and-mortar on classrooms remains iffy while the pandemic plays out, but virtual options are plentiful, thanks to the remote learning surge, and the format lends itself to the schedules of working professionals.
USF Puts Upskilling and Reskilling at Your Fingertips
The USF Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education has been mastering the intricacies of e-classrooms since long before the coronavirus struck. When many of those you serve are working professionals with tight schedules, the option for them to learn at their own pace from wherever they can set up a laptop is a necessity, not a pandemic solution.
If you answer yes to any of these:
- Are you a professional looking to add or sharpen skills?
- Do you need help with teacher certification exam prep?
- Are you a schoolteacher, student, or parent who needs a bit of cybersecurity schooling?
- Are you a professional in the hunt for certification or a bit of upskilling or reskilling?
- Are you a high school or college student who wants to ace the LSAT, GMAT, GRE, SAT, or ACT?
It’s time to explore the wealth of programs we have designed to meet the needs of working professionals and students.