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Updating Or Changing Your Skills

June 24, 2020

For many years we have written about the importance of improving skills and lamenting that there are limited means available to do so via companies or educational training centers. As jobs are eliminated and replaced by new jobs, we need a way to retrain our workforce. We are hoping a silver lining of this pandemic will see such an effort come to fruition.

One of the offshoots of the pandemic crisis is to highlight the need to retrain or as it is now being referred to “reskilling or upskilling.”

As thousands of in-office jobs move to remote working, companies see a new potential that will continue post pandemic. While the shift in technologies and working were already starting, the pandemic accelerated this trend.

A Gartner CFO study indicated three out of four CFOs plan to “shift at least 5% of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.” That is a lot of people.

A McKinsey Global Institute study in 2017 estimated 14% of the global workforce, or 375 million workers needed to change their skill set by 2030 as automation and artificial intelligence change their environment.

Companies already said they were experiencing a gap between the skills needed and the skills available for job openings. Yet less than half had a plan in place to do something about it.

McKinsey is recommending companies increase their learning budgets and develop a strategy to reskilling. Even basic tasks such as:

  • How do you manage your team remotely?
  • How do you manage vendor relationships remotely?

Healthcare is an obvious example of an accelerated move to video style service. In the UK, less than 1% of appointments were handled digitally in 2019. Now, of course, 100% are by video link. Only 7% take the next step to a face-to-face meeting. Upskilling medical personnel in how to diagnose remotely as well as offer empathy from a video link are in the works.

Consumer banks increased cross-training to help process mortgage refinancing while also training employees how to be empathetic to distressed clients during the pandemic and helping them to use the digital tools they never tried before.

JP Morgan Chase paired with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Initiative to forecast future skill requirements and training programs. In fact, JP Morgan is rolling out the “Skills Passport” to view skills, future options for training, etc.

AT&T has a “Future Ready” program to reskill employees.

Walmart and Amazon have upskill programs.

Unfortunately, most companies have not incorporated reskilling into their culture. GM planned to reduce 8,000 jobs including numerous engineers and product designers yet were hiring to expand their electric and autonomous vehicle divisions. This is referred to as “buy, not build” strategy.

Turnover at any company is costly. Imagine the savings to reskill existing staff.

Other countries are taking reskilling seriously. They are being proactive. And, in a world that is now virtual oriented, a company can hire someone internationally to work remotely if the skill isn’t available in the U.S.

Singapore and France offer workers an annual allowance for training. Ontario, Canada, offers grants to displaced workers to be reskilled.

Andy Van Kleunen, chief executive of the National Skills Coalition, said, “Many countries we compete with see continual worker retraining as part of their economic strategy. The way we’ve traditionally treated education in this country is the government is responsible for your education until age 18, and after that it’s more of a private matter.”

This attitude seems very short sighted. Harvard Business Review’s article, “How Reskilling Can Soften Economic Blow of Covid-19” believes there is a missed opportunity to rebalance supply and demand of workers by not offering reskilling. A successful program that crossed corporate, education and government in Sweden was cited as an example.

In an article in the SF Chronicle on May 13, 2020 “Crisis Giving Boost to Reskilling Firms,” several companies were identified that specialize in helping the reskilling process: Learn In, Udemy and Flock Jay, GoSkills and Ladder.


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