In 2015, it was growth-hacking. In 2016, it was company culture. Finally, a recent Economist article discussed what is (slowly) becoming the clear buzzword of the moment: “re-skilling.”
Unlike the other business jargon buzzwords we all love/hate throwing around on the daily, the concept of reskilling is more than just a fad. You’ll be hearing a lot about it not because it’s the viral cat-video of LinkedIn; it’ll be popping up everywhere precisely because it’s a fundamental, deeply essential concept to the workplace of the future.
Interest in reskilling is by no means a new phenomenon. In fact, its roots run deep in a number of industries ranging from tech to manufacturing. Going back to school to complete an MBA, for example, has been a common practice (granted that one can afford the time and financial investment). So what’s with all the fuss about going back to school?
The difference lies in the fact that while once we went back to school proactively, to progress in our current careers, to make more money, or to climb the next rung on the corporate ladder, modern economics tells us that we’re in reactive mode – and our lack of skills is to blame. Is it surprising? In a world where university degrees have become a minimum requirement, it’s no shocker that only 16% of Americans (the statistic is similar for Canadians) feel that a traditional four-year degree prepares them for the modern economy. Let’s spin that and repeat it: 84% of the population on both sides of the border realize, after working in the market, that a Bachelor’s degree is no longer the end-all-be-all for career glory. So who’s to blame?
In one word: technology. The thing we love so much as a modern society, the thing we rely on and depend on regularly to survive, has become the very thing that threatens the state of the traditional job market. Automation continues to loom scarier every day – and it’s not looking pretty. Sunil Johal, policy adviser to the Canadian government at the Mowat Center in Toronto, released a report recently which made serious waves as it announced that 7.5 million jobs in Canada were at risk of loss due to automation. Johal makes it clear that Canadians’ level of preparation for the imminent shift is “woefully inadequate” – and the government even less so prepared.
The Economist article echoes Johal’s predictions. For the first time in history, we are seeing the rise of “hybrid jobs” in the marketplace: jobs that involve a hybrid, cross-functional set of skills that diametrically oppose the traditional ways society and academia has taught us is “right” (get a degree → apply for jobs in that field → climb the ladder → stay in that field…forever). Roles involving programming knowledge/experience, for example, now make up nearly 50% of the highest-paying, most-sought-after jobs in the market. The most noteworthy part of it all? Merely having programming skills alone are not the golden ticket; the combination of two seemingly disparate skills (programming and an MBA, for example) make up the “hybrid” roles that are already flooding the market – and will only increase in demand.
The solution? The Economist suggests we reskill – and fast. In the face of traditional “linear” career paths taking swerves, twists and turns, the solution to remaining competitive in the market – and the solution to ensuring you remain pertinent and even necessary as an employee – comes down to learning new skills. Education is quickly making itself clear as the ultimate answer to a rapidly-changing marketplace.
Followed a linear career path until now? Don’t worry (too much): you may not necessarily be affected by automation in the next few years regardless of what reports continue to emerge and terrify. However, it’s in your best interest to continuously flex the educational muscles in your body for a number of reasons. Personal development aside, continued education almost always guarantees the opening of doors that previously seemed permanently closed. Sounds cliché? Here’s a real-life example.
Back at Pronexia headquarters, our team recently met an awesome guy named Antonio, a payroll and benefits specialist who had worked for large, super-corporate companies in his career up to now. However, Antonio had taught himself basic web development and built websites in WordPress and HTML for his friends, family, and his employer. At the very least, his unusual skills combination proved him to be an “interesting” candidate; at most, he showed a multidisciplinary, cross-functional way of thinking that historically aligns with leadership mindsets and a penchant for innovation. The world around Antonio was slowly changing – but Antonio kept up with it. Though the majority of employers probably wouldn’t “need” him to flex his digital skills, having them demonstrated one thing to them loud and clear: Antonio had innovated his skillset, taken the initiative and committed to modernizing himself alongside the rapidly-shifting economic landscape around him.
Learning is a lifelong practice that cannot stop post university graduation. Reskilling needs to be integrated more fundamentally into the fabric of the workforce – and doors will open for us accordingly (or, at the very least, they won’t be violently slammed shut in our faces).
For now, forget reskilling, programming, job loss, the workplace of the future, automation, and all the doom and gloom that’s allegedly (likely) ahead; remember the simple joys that come from education. It’s good for the mind, the spirit, the heart – and yes, it’s also good for the CV. Sometimes it really is as simple as this quote from Dr. Seuss:
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
Looking to reskill and get your skillset modern? Check out Les Labs’ Digital Literacy course here!