Why we need to reskill

Do we need to reskill? In a word, yes. We lose around 40% of our skills every three years which means that in under a decade, our skills can become obsolete. This is especially true when it comes to digital skills that are changing rapidly. Reskilling helps us to stay relevant and makes commercial sense too.

In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown period a popular Internet meme asked ‘Who led the digital transformation of your company?’ Was it, A) CEO, B), CTO or C) COVID-19? Singling out COVID-19 as a member of the C-suite responsible for digital transformation was extreme, however, for many organisations the global health crisis was the catalyst for digital transformation. As consumer habits shifted rapidly to online consumption, businesses had to respond quickly with transformation plans to be delivered in weeks or months instead of years.

The trend towards going digital first is shaping future skills demand too and the Adecco Group’s CEO, Alain Dehaze believes that reskilling is the route to staying relevant in the future: “Companies are accelerating the deployment of digital tools and it’s important that employees are catching up and acquiring digital capabilities…..the reality is that we need to permanently upskill.”

Aside from making sure we as individuals remain attractive in the employment market, reskilling makes sense from a commercial point of view too. Research by Josh Bersin commissioned by General Assembly and Whiteboard Advisors, found that “It can cost as much as six times more to hire from the outside than to build from within”. This varies based on the occupation and job function but presents a strong case for considering reskilling costs from a holistic perspective. What is it though? How long does it take? How can we make it a reality?

  1. What does reskilling really mean?

“It’s not just about a medium of learning but rather about learning in service of an outcome” says Glenda Quintini, senior economist at the OECD. Reskilling refers not only to learning job-specific technical skills but also to acquiring core competencies such as adaptability, communication, collaboration, and creativity. This happens through a combination of formal learning (such as college or university), non-formal learning (such as that offered by employers), and informal learning which includes learning from colleagues.

  1. How long does reskilling take?

This varies but as an example, we can look at General Assembly’s ‘Immersives’ designed to prepare participants for careers in technology, data, and other digital roles. While most participants have a university education, they typically have little or no experience in digital. These courses take around 480 hours and are delivered over an intense 12-week period. General Assembly has found that this is enough time for students to complete and receive feedback on multiple projects that simulate what it’s really like to have the job for which they’re preparing. Between 2018 and 2019, about 90% of students secured a job within six months of graduating.

  1. How can we make reskilling a reality for all?

Independent, employer-led organisations such as sector skills councils can help to bridge the gap between learning and employment. For example, Tech Partnership Degrees brings employers and universities together to “improve the flow of talent into the digital workforce.” For individuals, the UK Government recently launched an online Skills Toolkit which includes digital skills training from well know education providers and organisations.

Plus, The recently announced opportunity guarantee designed to ensure that “every young person has the chance of apprenticeship or an in-work placement so that they maintain the skills and confidence they need to find the job that is right for them” could also be an opportunity for employers to shape the digital skills they need.

Clear reskilling pathways

It’s our belief that all employees should have access to some kind of career development support. Human resources leaders, governments, and the education sector will need to work together to design a shared toolkit with clear definitions for the pressing parameters of reskilling. Sustained coordinated ideas and initiatives will help us avoid the worst of the growing economic crisis and ensure a more resilient and stable world of work.