Jay Mattern

Up(skill) or Out?

For the longest time, the gateway to a successful career was to go to college, get your undergraduate degree, and step into the world of work. The past two years have turned everything upside down, including how businesses get the work done. Not only is the tried and true method of stepping into a career changing, but many of those entry-level opportunities are disappearing – being replaced by automation.

Upskilling – providing employees with more advanced skills through additional education and training – is fast becoming the new buzzword in today’s rapidly evolving job ecosystem. These changes are coming fast and furious and require the ability to quickly adapt to avoid being left behind or worse, finding your position being eliminated by AI.

Upskilling – why now?

Upskilling is certainly not a new idea, but in the same way that the economic landscape has been reshaped, the essence of upskilling has changed and has been redefined. It was common for someone with certain job or professional skills to rely on those skills for 15-20 years. With the velocity of changes taking place, this has shortened to 3-5 years at best. For professionals with more technical skills, that window is probably even shorter. In order to stay relevant, it is necessary to constantly review the skills that are needed to continue to contribute positively to the organization.

There have been numerous studies conducted on this topic and the general consensus is that the skills of today’s workforce simply won’t match the jobs of tomorrow. On top of that, newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete. Some of the factors contributing to this include the advancement of technology, globalization, increased competition, and of course, COVID-19. All of these have become contributing factors that are driving monumental changes in the workplace and a need for acquiring new skills.

Here come the robots

The idea of robots taking the place of humans, even in the workplace, is nothing new. Movie scripts have imagined a future where they replace not only human labor but human emotion. Over time, the lines between fiction and reality have become more and more blurred. Fortune magazine predicts that within 15 years, up to 40% of the world’s jobs will be replaced by robots capable of automating tasks. Up to 1.5 million jobs in England are at risk of being automated in the future, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

In spite of how ominous this sounds, all is not lost. By acknowledging that these changes are on the way and adapting to them by acquiring the necessary skills to keep up, our workforce can stay ahead of the curve.

It’s a small world after all

The pandemic has forced nearly every company and every job performed to shift significantly in order to meet demand. The globalization of business is opening the door to many new jobs that require different levels and types of skills. At the same time, many lower and medium-level jobs are being quickly eliminated and replaced with automation. Given the pressure on rising costs, businesses are always looking for ways to reduce costs and the harsh truth is that much of that efficiency is being accomplished by technology.

So what does this mean for us right now? As we all know, the only constant in business is change. This includes the future of work. It is certain that organizations will continue to adopt leading-edge technology, and this includes automation that can complete many lower-level tasks common to most businesses. This makes it more critical than ever that advancing skill levels becomes a priority to everyone in the workforce. In addition to upskilling, workers should also look to acquire new skills that will allow them to step into alternative careers.

The world is changing at breakneck speed and there are many socio-economic factors forcing these changes. Employees must recognize this new landscape and make it a top priority to assess their skills and determine how to complement them with new ones. By doing so, not only does the workforce move forward, but organizations and the global economy will prosper as well.

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