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Level Up! Re-skilling the Global Workforce

The future of work is as uncertain as the future itself

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Strategist

Unleash Your Potential It’s time to change the education and learning conversation and address ways to make learning a lifelong process. 

  • Only 11 % of C-suite and human-capital leaders said they plan to provide training or re-skilling to meet changing business needs
  • Training is still often generic and irrelevant, with its impact immeasurable
  • The future of work is as uncertain as the future itself

We’ve been catapulted into a new world of work, creating huge shifts in talent demands and a widening of company skill gaps. Most organizations affected by the skills gap are painfully aware of their problem. 

The increasing use and reliance of technologies calls out for advanced digital skillsets, which are often in short supply. At the same time, workers in transportation, administrative support, sales, and logistics are also finding their jobs being dramatically changed or eliminated due to the new world we find ourselves in.

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Despite so much talk of re-skilling and up-skilling, many companies still choose to recruit new employees with the desired skills instead of repurposing their existing talent. In one survey, only 11 percent of C-suite and human-capital leaders said they plan to provide training or re-skilling to meet changing business needs — versus 59 percent who said they plan to hire extensively instead.  

The problem today is far too vast for employers to just hire their way out of it. No company can swap out the workforce every few years. That means companies will be required to train and retrain repeatedly, as the shelf-life of existing skillsets gets shorter. Going forward, the ability to train and up-skill better than the competition may end up being the potent means of differentiation. 

 In one survey, only 11 percent of C-suite and human-capital leaders said they plan to provide training or re-skilling to meet changing business needs — versus 59 percent who said they plan to hire extensively instead.  

Here’s what companies need to know to keep pace. 

Embracing a New Model of Learning 

In a world where continuous change is the only constant, agility can make or break an organization. In this “learn or die” environment, all employees must continue learning or risk becoming irrelevant. 

In the past, learning was something that happened at the start of your life before you went to work, and usually involved a mixture of subjects, like math, sciences and language. For the past 50 years, that model has worked, but as technology continues to advance, employees will need to know more than these basic subjects. Meanwhile, the incumbent workforce also finds itself becoming out-of-date with relatively little support in terms of learning infrastructure to re-skill — schools are mostly still for children and young adults. 

It’s time to change the education and learning conversation. We should be teaching people how to learn in their early life, and then helping them deploy that into later life to up-skill and re-skill. 

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It’s time to change the education and learning conversation.

Adapting L&D for the Digital Age 

There’s no shortage of money being thrown at the problem but, this training is often generic and irrelevant, with its impact immeasurable. The classic model of corporate training – taking people out of day-to-day work and teaching them in classrooms or though lengthy online courses — won’t help people succeed. It also doesn’t consider the needs and wants of the employers and what they value. 

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The new L&D models focus on delivering on-demand, self-service learning that is accessible by the learner at any time, anywhere and on any device. Training content must be readily accessible within the learner’s natural work context, and the process of finding content that specifically meets the needs of learners must be frictionless and targeted. 

A Fresh Approach to Credentials 

Sometimes employees with a bachelor’s degree need additional training in specific areas, but they don’t have the time or money to pursue a traditional master’s degree. “MicroMasters” programs are one way to bridge this gap.  

These programs can also help narrow the credential gap, for those employers that require or prefer formal education credentials to more casual online training. And these programs can be designed to be stackable. To ensure that these programs are relevant, many of the schools conduct market-demand research to determine how to fill gaps in the market. 

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It Takes a Village — Or Not? 

But is it solely the responsibility of companies to re-skill their workers? While some are stepping up, should we expect the government, schools and other entities to play a role, as well? 

“It would be a big expansion of the government’s role to take over the task of training workforces for employers,” says Peter Cappelli, a Management Professor and Director of the Center for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “Particularly if you are in favor of small government, it’s very difficult to see why that makes sense.” He warns that the government hasn’t done a good job of anticipating training needs. “It is work-based skills that come from work experience, and the government can’t provide those.”

It would be a big expansion of the government’s role to take over the task of training workforces for employers.

PETER CAPPELLI, PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR HUMAN RESOURCES, THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA’S WHARTON SCHOOL

Taking Cues from Manufacturing 

Manufacturing is one area that has generated considerable concern over mass layoffs of workers who don’t have transferable job skills. However, that sector also provides some of the strongest examples of the government, schools and companies working together to reskill employees. The Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute (ARM), a nonprofit created by Carnegie Mellon University, received $80 million from the Defense Department, and it’s one of 14 Manufacturing USA Institutes (each institution has a unique tech concentration, such as modeling and simulation, electronics and biotechnology). ARM’s purpose is to fund projects that help create manufacturing jobs while accelerating the use of robotics in manufacturing. 

More than 160 organizations are contributing resources to ARM, bringing the total potential investment to more than $250 million. 

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Howie Choset is a Professor of Robotics at Carnegie Mellon University and the chief scientist at ARM. In addition to creating jobs, Choset says ARM’s goals include making American workers cost-effective and competitive, lowering barriers so small companies can leverage manufacturing and making the U.S. the leader in industrial robotics. ARM provides training, certifications and other educational tools to people ranging from students to displaced workers. 

“Our hope is to have enough impact on American manufacturing to support the creation of well-paying jobs where robots and people work together,” Choset says.

“Our hope is to have enough impact on American manufacturing to support the creation of well-paying jobs where robots and people work together.

Howie Choset, Professor of Robotics, Carnegie Mellon University

Planning for an Uncertain Future 

The future of work is as uncertain as the future itself. Cristal Glangchai, founder of VentureLab, and author of “Venture Girls: Raising Girls to be Tomorrow’s Leaders,” says the majority of kids will have jobs that we cannot even imagine today. Without a crystal ball, it’s difficult to formulate a strategy to transform the workplace and the education process. But we can plan for what we do know. Companies — along with schools and governments — need to address ways to make learning a lifelong process. 

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