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The Future is Now: Upskilling for a new world of work

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A lot will look different after coronavirus, including the world of work. Distance and at-home working will become more acceptable with some experts predicting the decline of big office sites. From food service to manufacturing to office-based work, the pandemic is making us rethink where work gets done and how consumers consume. This will require everyone to learn new skills, habits, practices, and in some cases brand new professions (and quickly!).

Work today isn’t as linear as it was for our parents. Rather than staying with one or two companies for an entire career, the average person today will change careers five to seven times in their lifetimes, according to career change statistics. What’s more, 30% of the workforce will now change careers or jobs every 12 months. By the age of 42, you may well have worked 10 jobs!

And then there was coronavirus…

These statistics were true before coronavirus and will be even truer after. This pandemic and the lockdown that followed are highlighting the importance of flexibility and adaptation. Remote working and, therefore, digital know-how are no longer optional. Even in-person, customer-facing businesses like maintenance and food service have had to pivot in order to reach new customers. Change is coming; for you, what will that look like? In any event, now is the time to incorporate learning into our pandemic planning in order to pick up new skills, certifications and proficiencies in order to stay ahead of the employment curve.

Personal development checklist:

  1. Imagine how your work will be affected by changing trends. For example, if you are office-based, you might not return full time as flexible working becomes more normal; if you work in a bar, how will your establishment cope with customer safety with social distancing measures? For medical staff and care givers, telemedicine and telecare services are growing quickly as alternatives to in-person consultation.
  2. Pinpoint the skills that are needed today versus the skills that will be needed in the new world. While we don’t know exactly how Covid-19 will change things, we can take some guesses as to the skills we will need more of: Technology savvy, data literacy, digital coding skills, flexibility, and more than one way to earn an income.
  3. Identify where and how to get those skills. Now that you have an idea of how your job might change because of coronavirus, and the skills you need to stay competitive in the future job market, consider where to get those skills. Paying full freight for formal schooling isn’t necessary. First, turn to your employer and ask for financial support for training programmes, look for free courses, weigh options ranging from informal to formal learning. Online courses and tutorials have gotten really good in the past couple years. They tend to be free or low-cost and can provide as much valuable information as formal training. Have a look at a multitude of sources to acquire the new knowledge you need.
  4. Make a plan of action. Determine how much time you can realistically dedicate to upskilling, taking into account things like summer holidays and childminding. Bear in mind that if you are working from home, you could potentially spend time you would have been commuting to study.
  5. Set yourself up for success. Training and studying are an undertaking that requires forethought and planning. It’s hard to routinely carve out time and space every day to learn uninterrupted at home. Make sure that you and family understand what it will mean and are in a place to support your success.
  6. Evaluate the outcome. If you’re upskilling in order to take advantages of opportunities at your current job, make sure your employer knows. Where possible, opt for documentation, certificate of completion, or anything that demonstrates your new skill.

Utilising this time to achieve long term goals

  • Whilst we’re waiting for business to slowly start opening back up, can you accelerate your learning? If you have the time and mental space to jump into an upskilling programme, don’t wait! Emerging from lockdown with a new set of skills could give you a leg up in the job market.
  • You might only need to look as far as your friends and acquaintances for advice on upskilling. Have a computer engineer friend? Ask for recommendations on programming courses. Know an entrepreneur? Find out what it took to start a new business. Our personal and professional networks are handy resources and – most of the time – free!
  • Dreaming of being your own boss? Covid-19 is a truly black swan event, meaning that it will change the trajectory of history. Many workers have already lost their jobs and it is likely that we will see unemployment rates rising still. Whilst the economic, consumer, business and work outlooks are unclear, this is as good a time as any to explore what it would take to start your own business. There may be opportunity now that didn’t exist a year ago.

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