Up-skilling in the times of COVID-19


NEW DELHI:  Restructured work, redefined roles and reserves of trust, coupled with reskilling of resources is going to be the future of work. With the Coronavirus pandemic staring large, workspaces are rebooting and getting smarter.

Machines and algorithms in the workplace were expected to create 133 million new roles, but cause 75 million jobs to be displaced by 2022, as per a WEF 2018 Future of Jobs Report. This means that a net of 58 million new jobs will be created over the next few years which would allow people to work with machines and algorithms to meet the demands of the current demographic shifts and economic changes. However, this may change drastically because of the pandemic and there would be substantial job losses which could take upto two-three years to recover.

To be able to take advantage of this, re-skilling and up-skilling becomes critical for both employers and employees. The COVID-19 crisis is forcing many of us to change the way we work. There is a huge shift towards remote working and, as the trend is expected to continue the use of technology has never been felt more. The world would see increased use of virtual technology for meetings, substantial investment in science and medicine, wide use of telemedicine and reduction in overheads including lower rents and travel costs. Work from home and virtual meetings would be part of the routine work culture. Governments are going to be bigger, stronger and hopefully more efficient with a rise in nationalism and self-dependency. The world and ways of doing business will not be the same again.

It is here that a collaborative action across industries and other stakeholders to develop futureproof workforce strategies and support at-risk workers with reskilling and upskilling will play a crucial role. Not only does it have the potential to facilitate digital transformation but can also limit job losses in the wake of the current recession. A preliminary assessment ILO report COVID-19 and world of work: Impacts and Responses mentions that nearly 25 million jobs could be lost due to corona crisis. If COVID persist further the numbers would be much higher as is already being seen in USA.

In my view, reskilling and upskilling are not a one-time thing. It is important for employers to identify which talent can be up-skilled quickly. In order to subvert or minimise job losses in current times, employers will need to create a robust learning path for their workforce; link to their appraisal cycle so that it becomes a way of life. Even if a professional is not at risk of losing his/her job, it is important for them to re-assess their skills periodically to know if they will be able to remain competitive during this phase and, acquire appropriate skills for the future. Use of technology and related learning would be a must for survival in a job.

It is times such as these that organisations and other stakeholders – government entities, industry bodies, private and public educational institutions etc – should come together, prepare for such challenges and, suggest a concrete approach. Organisations will need to increasingly focus on reskilling employees, up-skilling workforce, attracting and retaining new talent to fill crucial future roles thus creating an ecosystem that rests on a culture of life-long learning.


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