UPSKILLING: Strap Your Boots and Get Ready for the Future

Man differs from other animals in one very important respect, and that is that he has some desires which are, so to speak, infinite, which can never be fully gratified, and which would keep him restless even in Paradise. – Bertrand Russell

The key drive, integral to every human being is to evolve and grow and genetically, humankind has been evolving. Similarly, in the domain of business, ‘matching-up’ and staying relevant has been the pursuit of most members of the workforce and this need has never been more pressing than it is in the contemporary times. The last World Government Summit1 held in 2019 was themed around similar issues like, ‘The Future of Trade, Happiness and Wellbeing’ where one of the focal areas of discussion was to find ways to the current global issues like unemployment. Unemployment is NOT a result of lack of jobs only but a bigger reason for unemployment is the unavailability of the required skill among the current and potential workforce. World Economic Forum’s2, 2018 report and PwC’s report3, Future of Work: A Journey to 2022, both categorically mention that embracing the fast changing work requirements is critical or else there was a huge gap between available jobs and meagre number of people equipped to handle them. Most companies are drawing strategies which require adaptable technology-based capability which includes an understanding of data sciences and an innovative and creative approach to complex problem solving. But with each disruption come a solution to handle the world ahead and Upskilling is the solution in the new paradigm where the nature or method of doing the same job may change in a couple of years.

“Upskilling refers to the process of teaching current employees new skills. As technology creates opportunities, employers seek to fill new jobs with candidates who possess specialized skill sets. By upskilling current employees, companies can fill open positions while retaining their current workforce by creating learning opportunities.” (Forbes, Magazine, 2019)

Upskilling is a practice which has grown in popularity in recent years. Its skill upgradation which involves continuous updating of skills which now uniquely

1. World Government Summit at https://www.worldgovernmentsummit.org/events/annual-gathering#

2. World Economic Forum, “The Future of Jobs Report 2018”, Centre for the New Economy and Society, 2018 at http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf

3. PwC, “Future of Work: A Journey to 2022”, at https://www.pwc.com/ee/et/publications/pub/future-of-work-report.pdf

involves active workforce to ensure efficiency in a fast-evolving employment economy. The external world environment has seen disruptive changes spurred on by the advent of rapid technological evolution, the increased ubiquity of Artificial Intelligence (AI), analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) in everyday jobs. Until very recently, upskilling was not one of the primary concerns at the highest echelons as there was a massive workforce waiting in the wings and skills required for jobs were broad enough that those unable to do their jobs efficiently could be easily replaced, like machinery. In those times, upskilling was a private concern and initiative of the employee to stay relevant in a market which was marked by cutthroat competition where better equipped human force or technology would simply render them redundant.

There exists an inverse relationship between how specialized a job is and the workforce available to perform it. This is noticed in the current times where over a period of time, as jobs are getting more niche, the pool of candidates from which a replacement may be hired in the market are getting smaller. Moreover, employers have recognized that hiring and integrating new talent in a niche occupation requires considerable expense and effort. Therefore, it would be more efficient to retrain or upskill the existing workforce who are already familiar with what the job entails. This is why employers have taken greater initiative and interest in upskilling their current workforce by putting training and skills programmes into place and incentivizing their employees to complete them. Thus receptivity, flexibility and open-mindedness have become the watchwords amongst employees as the employer can only make opportunities available and it up to the employees to make the most of the available avenues.

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