17 Jan From education to skills: adapting to the future of work
The future of work is here. Labour market disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt two years on, changing the face of work forever. Indeed, COVID-19 accelerated existing trends in remote work, e-commerce, and automation, with up to 25% more workers needing to switch occupations than previously estimated, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.
There are numerous factors that have led to this massive occupational shift. For one, widespread lockdown mandates to curb the spread of COVID-19 hastened the adoption of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), especially in industries and work arenas with routine tasks and high physical proximity, such as manufacturing, retail, and even warehousing and logistics.
Additionally, it is no surprise that there was increased demand for workers in healthcare and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), as this trend reflects the increased attention to public health and safety, as well as the growing need for innovators who can develop new technologies and solutions.
The pandemic’s biggest impact, however, fell on low-wage workers. More than half of displaced low-wage workers need to shift to occupations in higher wage brackets that require a different set of skills just to remain employed.
To add to the challenge, the skill mix required to change occupations has also changed. From basic cognitive skills and physical and manual skills, workers looking to change occupations need to spend more time honing their technological skills, as well as their social and emotional skills.
Businesses and governments alike can help usher in a brighter future of work by taking steps to reskill and upskill workers. Both public and private training and development programs can help facilitate occupational shifts by focusing on skills that need to be developed for certain jobs rather than academic degrees.
From education to skills
Academic degrees just can’t keep up with the pace of change and disruption in the workplace. As such, reskilling and upskilling will be key to survive and thrive in the future of work, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Reskilling and upskilling are often used interchangeably, but they have clear distinctions. Reskilling involves learning new skills for a different job, while upskilling, as its name suggests, involves leveling up your skills and knowledge in a particular area. Both, however, are proactive initiatives that anticipate the skills that will be needed by an organisation to future-proof its workforce.
Employees nowadays are constantly looking for opportunities to reskill and upskill at work, alongside opportunities to learn new technologies. This helps workers ensure future employability through skills, something workers wish employers would also sufficiently address through their employment contracts, and training and development programs.
By 2025, it is also expected that the modern workplace will be divided equally among humans and machines. By then, data processing and other administrative tasks—routine manual jobs often delegated to white and blue-collar workers—will be within the purview of machines.
This underscores the need to reskill and upskill for new jobs across all levels, with a particular emphasis on technology and digital skills. This machine-assisted future also allows workers to focus more on fulfilling their human potential by reskilling and upskilling for more service-oriented roles and creative occupations that hone their cognitive adaptability, design thinking, and empathic reasoning.
But how does one reskill or upskill if they are not currently part of an organisation? They can take diploma courses, certifications, and qualifications online so they can acquire in-demand skills without necessarily going back to college. Training providers, such as those within EdventureCo, offer students the flexibility to learn the skills they need at their own pace.
At EdventureCo, our goal has always been to equip students with relevant skills in a fast-changing world, where jobs are increasingly being displaced by automation and robotics.
Through DDLS, Auldhouse and the Australian Institute of ICT, we help students reskill and upskill for fast-changing roles in information technology (IT) and cybersecurity. Everthought Education, on the other hand, continues to produce skilled and qualified tradespeople that power the large-scale bounce-back efforts and construction boom.
At ENS, we help individuals hone their social and emotional skills such as persuasion, negotiation, emotional intelligence, and social influence, all of which are among the top 15 skills employers will look for through to 2025.
Remember: the future of work is not set in stone. As we speak, industries and businesses alike are still navigating the complexities and challenges of remote work and hybrid workplaces.
However, regularly reskilling and upskilling will never go out of style, in fact, it is the only way one can anticipate and prepare for unprecedented changes in the workplace. In an increasingly automated and disrupted world, lifelong learning will always be essential.