All things upskilling: Are you on track for 2025? (Part 1)

Curved road heading into a sunrise

Written by Sumeet Kukar

Hello! I'm Sumeet, a Learning Nibbler. I like to find bite-sized learning in everyday things and share these to enhance critical-thinking. *Fusing cyber, digital strategy, risk and technology for a resilient tomorrow*

March 18, 2022

So, you’ve heard it everywhere. Upskill in this, upskill in that and allocate time to upskilling. But what exactly is upskilling? How does it differ from reskilling and cross-skilling? More importantly, why should I upskill myself and my teams? In this post, and wider three-part series, I will cover everything you need to know while we also check in on next year’s milestones.

Did the Simpsons get it right?

I’m a big fan of the Simpsons and we all know their famous predictions that have come true; check out some of these covered in an article by Time (McCluskey M. Time, 2020). That reminded me of another scene – let’s take a look.

What do you think? Are robots really going to take over all our jobs? Let’s play this scenario out a little further.

What’s happening around the world?

The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR)

Industrial revolutions represent eras and are based on the technologies that were most prevalent at the time. These technologies were deemed advanced for that period and aimed to reduce human effort in our regular tasks. Technologies improved over time and where these were so significant so as to create a paradigm shift in the way we live, these are where we assign a new Industrial Revolution.

Historically, the first Industrial Revolution refers to the steam engine and its use in supporting the manufacturing and transportation industries. The second refers to the assembly line and electricity and how they supported mass production. The third refers to the microprocessor and how it backed electronics, IT systems and advanced communications.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR for short, is often debatable. But we define this as the interconnected or cyber-physical systems that we are currently in now. Think IoT (Internet of Things) devices, cloud, AR/VR, robotics, digital wallets, electric vehicles and how they link together in the metaverse.

As we continue our journey of digital transformation at an accelerated rate, we have a greater affinity towards interconnectivity. This interconnected and blended cyber physical system rich in IoT is the next Industrial Revolution.

As we continue our journey of digital transformation at an accelerated rate, we have a greater affinity towards interconnectivity. This interconnected and blended cyber physical system rich in IoT is the next Industrial Revolution.

Source: Arascina® – Cyber for non-techies; 4IR Infographic
The top 10 skills for the workforce by 2025

So…back to the Simpsons and robots taking all of our jobs. I admire the satire and production team’s subtle hints, but I am going to disagree on this one. Time and again we can see that many jobs we have now, never existed before. Did you ever hear companies having a digital marketer back in the First Industrial Revolution?

If we introduced a new machine to replace human labour, we would inherently create new jobs to cater for the machine’s maintenance, security, logistics, risk management and operations. The point here being that we adapt and technologies merely augment our roles, but with some displacement.

This is what the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2020 highlights. It shows how new jobs will emerge and displace others and underlines the importance of new skills that need to be acquired. Interestingly, of the top ten growing job demand, eight relate to skills in emerging technology.

Source: World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Report – Job Landscape

This is what the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2020 highlights. It shows how new jobs will emerge and displace others and underlines the importance of new skills that need to be acquired. Interestingly, of the top ten growing job demand, eight relate to skills in emerging technology.

The global statistics show…

Now that we understand the changing jobs landscape being underpinned by a host of new skills that we need to learn, where are we at so far and what do the numbers show?

In essence, as we move forward through digital change, we need to acquire new skills, the workforce has a skills gap for the jobs required and our current capability-building or training programs are not proving to be as effective as we need.

The skills conundrum

When talking about learning and training your employees, I often get C-suites and Board members saying “Sumeet, that’s okay if my team doesn’t have these sets of skills. I’ll just hire an additional team because I have the budget.”

That’s great, but let’s just play this out for a second. Look at your current team and ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. Do they have the corporate knowledge of your company?
  2. Do they have the adequate skills to perform the tasks needed?
  3. Do they have the skills in emerging technology (the ones that WEF calls out and that apply to your organisation)?

It would seem likely that you would answer yes to the first, partial to the second and no to the third. After all, that’s why you are seeking to hire more staff.

If you had to answer these during your hiring process for new candidates, it would likely be no for the first and partial for the second. When hiring managers have searched the talent pool for skills in emerging technology, they often find it difficult and it questions the strategy for hiring an additional team. Recall that 87% of executives are facing a skills gap in the workforce according to the McKinsey Global Survey.

The hiring strategy also affects your current team, their morale and staff retention, while also raising questions about the social responsibility we have towards the workforce and their wellbeing. That’s before we consider the double salary expenses, the on-costs, the training and the time taken to grasp the corporate knowledge. The fact that these skills are in deficit is what causes a squeeze on executives and what I like to call the skills conundrum.

The fact that these skills are in deficit is what causes a squeeze on executives and what I like to call the skills conundrum.

In Part 2 we will look at the differences between upskilling, reskilling and cross-skilling, the features you should look for in an upskilling or training program, the macrotrends and the skills you should focus on. See All things upskilling: Are you on track for 2025? (Part 2).

Let me know your thoughts and as always, I’d be happy to connect, have a chat and support you in your skills journey 😊

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