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Reskilling: The new trend in fast-changing workplace environment

Friday August 23 2019

TRAINING, RESKILLING

By 2020, more and more core skills in many of the professions we know today are expected to change. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK 

JAMES KAHONGEH
By JAMES KAHONGEH
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Ever stopped to think about what could happen if the skills you currently possess were to become outdated? If your current abilities were to be rendered obsolete, how would you survive the highly volatile professional world? Would you find yourself having to start from the bottom, or do you have a raw but valuable talent just waiting to spring to life in case of such an eventuality?

By 2020, more and more core skills in many of the professions we know today are expected to change. For this, young professionals are constantly being urged to acquire new skills, or additional ones at least, just to sharpen their aptitudes.

Findings of a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2018 indicated that 38 per cent of all CEOs in the world lack key skills and that this is the biggest threat to the growth of local businesses.

“An organisation is moved by the skills it has its disposal,” says Matthew Sigelman, who is the CEO of Burning Glass Technologies. According to him, a company’s employees must first evolve before the company can keep up with the changing work space.

What is re-skilling about?

Over the last five years, the buzzword in most professional circles has been “re-skilling”, which means to teach someone, or to acquire, new skills.  Workers are now being advised to acquire fresh skills, and to sharpen those that they already have.

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But what does re-skilling or re-training mean? Is it about going back to college to learn what we already know? Obviously not.

Re-skilling and re-training is all about modifying our existing abilities. It is also about ensuring that the soft skills we possess are not automated or mechanised in spite of the advancements in technology.

Simply put, re-skilling, is aimed at preparing us for the future, so that we can excel in our roles when the tides of change arrive. 

As such, companies are investing heavily in training programmes for their employees especially in the area of technology, to help them adapt to the fast-changing workplace environment and to help them attain their individual goals in the process.

It takes various dimensions, namely technology re-skilling, soft-human skills, and business and science re-skilling.

Technology re-skilling

Granted, technology is considered the biggest threat to most jobs that exist today. Experts however argue that with proper alignment, any profession can survive technological advancements.

Equipping oneself with IT skills such as basic data literacy and applying Artificial Intelligence in solving everyday problems, are some of the practical ways to re-skill in terms of technology.

Soft skills

Are you a good leader? Can you communicate effectively and coherently? How fast and  smoothly do you adapt to change? These are examples of soft human management skills that can enable professionals to discharge their duties effectively and improve their output.

Critical thinking, problem solving skills and innovation are necessary too. Acquiring these skills is particularly important in the digital era when competition for available jobs is at an all-time high.

The beauty of soft skills is that they are indispensable, and timeless. They transcend technological advancements.

Business and science re-skilling involves attaining new skills in areas such as organisational design, and sales and marketing, which are critical to the smooth operations of any organisation. Armed with these skills, employees are better equipped to handle their daily roles.

But is training and re-skilling necessary for working professionals only?

Unemployment rate

Kenya is currently grappling with an unemployment rate of 7.4 per cent, according to information from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. In July this year, the World Bank projected that the figure could rise to 10.5 per cent by the end of 2019. 

Needless to say, the majority of those unemployed are young people between the ages of 18 and 24, who are mostly graduates entering the job market. Whereas these graduates are desperate for jobs, employers often decry that this demographic class lacks the skills required to immediately fit in at their organisations and deliver.

To match the expectations of potential employers, graduates must therefore re-skill consistently.

Jijali (a Kiswahili word meaning to take care of yourself), for instance, is a local enterprise that trains graduates and young professionals aged between 18 and 30 years on how to kick-start their careers and businesses.

During this free and fully-funded digital programme, learners are paired with career or business mentors who guide them through the journey for three months. Being a part-time course, participants are allowed to pursue their day jobs and other commitments and upon completion, they are issued with certificates.  Through re-skilling, a graduate becomes job-ready, which gives them an edge over fellow graduates who may not have undergone any training. Re-skilling also helps expand the imagination of young professionals and business owners, and to make them aware of other possibilities in their areas of expertise. 

But even as you acquire fresh skills in your domain, experts advise that you first learn about other areas, especially those that are related to your core profession. This will help you gain an in-depth and multi-disciplinary understanding of the work sphere.

Ultimately, it is the ability to perform multiple tasks, and to perform them with a confident swagger, that will help you survive in a highly competitive professional world.

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