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Upskilling is not just for lockdown. Why encouraging upskilling and reskilling is important for your teams post lockdown.

With nations that have undergone lockdown restrictions around the world, many individuals took to the internet in order to upskill themselves on popular EdTech platforms such as Udemy, Udacity and Coursera just to mention a few. This makes perfect sense since individuals had more disposal time on their hands. According to a report by MarketPublishers (2021) the global EdTech market size was valued at USD 89.49 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow by 19.9% from 2021 to 2028. This is largely owed to disruptive and ubiquitous technologies such as the internet and mobile devices which more and more people have access to as the cost to access these technologies have decreased in several years. The report further suggests that innovative technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will further contribute to the growth of this sector.

As economies gradually begin to recover and reopen, organisations have come to realise the importance of upskilling employees both internally and externally. Upskilling employees enables organisations to develop professional skills for new and existing roles and this can be done through remote learning by opting for courses on EdTech platforms such as those mentioned earlier. A study carried out by TalentLMS found that about 50% of employers focused on upskilling both the soft and hard skills of their employees through upskilling and reskilling initiatives while 68% of companies invested in upskilling their employees specifically to equip them for internal changes (Apostolopoulos, 2020). Even major corporations such as Amazon, the world’s largest e-commerce company have invested in upskilling support employees to move into in-demand higher-paying technical and non-technical roles within Amazon and beyond. The initiative known as Upskilling 2025 has pledged USD 1.2 billion in funds to provide training for its employees (Amazon, 2020).

Employers are not the only ones upskilling their employees. Individuals all around the world have taken the initiative to upskill and reskill themselves in order to meet the demands of the digital workforce. With technology growing at such a rapid pace, more and more career opportunities have opened up in the space. For example, Data Science and Software Development roles are some of the most sought after skills in the technology industry and many EdTech platforms offer a plethora of courses in these subjects. Apart from these hard technical skills, individuals are also investing more time and resources in soft technical skills as a means to enhance digital literacy. The belief is that by enhancing these skills they are more likely to earn higher salaries (Apostolopoulos, 2020).

One common factor that is quite apparent across all of these studies and reports is that employees and employers are starting to see the importance of training and development as a means to remain competitive in the labour market. As mundane tasks become automated and as companies invest in systems that adopt artificial intelligence to perform these tasks, there is a greater need to reskill the population to focus on more specialised roles in the economy. It is easy to understand why employees fear losing their jobs to automated systems, especially if companies are starting to aggressively invest in artificial intelligent driven systems to reduce costs and increase profits. However, this should be viewed as an opportunity for employees to diversify their skillset by investing in training and development in order to better their standard of living. Atiku and Boateng (2020) and Kar et al. (2020) are of the opinion that tertiary education institutions such as universities and colleges should restructure their academic programmes and account for the global changes in career prospects as we gradually move into the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0). With that being said, such institutions are often rigid in nature which makes it harder to restructure programmes overnight. If anything, online EdTech platforms are in a much better position to make these changes at individual course levels given that the content is often developed by instructors who aren’t required to submit their material through a stringent compliance body for approval. This makes many EdTech platforms a more attractive option for individuals who would like to learn a new skill without having to make serious commitments that would otherwise be required by institutions such as universities.

One of the lessons that I am confident the global lockdown has taught us is that more individuals have become accustomed to the idea of upskilling themselves through these inexpensive platforms anywhere in the world from something as simple as a mobile device. As globalisation continues to increase and as new industries begin to crop up, it is highly likely that career opportunities will always be present as long as individuals are willing to invest in training and development to equip themselves for these roles.

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