Upskilling and reskilling: Remain relevant and employable

2018-10-05 16:12

Aworkforce research report has found that only 23.8% of working South Africans believe their current skills will keep them employed in 10 years’ time.

With the burgeoning fourth industrial revolution accelerating the pace of change in the world of work, most South Africans are looking to “futureproof” their careers. For 95% of us, lifelong learning is the key to retaining relevance.

Based on a survey with a sample group of more than 1 000 people across varying demographics and industries, the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer uncovered that, while artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) are on the radar, other factors are currently seen as having a more immediate impact on job retention.

Andrew Johnston, chief executive of MasterStart, says: “Our workforce is clearly concerned. However, our research revealed people are aware that frequent upskilling and reskilling will aid them in remaining relevant and employable.

“In a country where unemployment is an ongoing issue, it is imperative that we empower people to future-proof their careers by making lifelong learning opportunities continuously accessible to bridge critical capability gaps and compete with global standards.”

Some pivotal findings in the report included:

Age and lack of skills are the biggest barriers

While age was referenced most frequently as a barrier to future employment – especially for those who are older than 50 – in the 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 age brackets, a lack of skills was seen as the most prohibiting factor.

It’s tough out there

A total of 80% of the sample believed the job market to be tougher now than it was just 10 years ago.

People working in media and marketing especially agreed with this (92.9%), along with those who are working in the manufacturing (87.9%) and financial services (87%) industries.

Why’s it perceived as so tough?

Both macro and micro factors were listed, including the political and economic climate in the country, increased competition, fewer employment opportunities and rapid change.

People in IT and tech feel most secure about their skills

Collectively, just under half the sample felt they’d been held back by a lack of skills. A total of 30% of participants in IT and tech were completely confident their skills would survive the 10-year test. Those in other industries were noticeably less secure.

We’re not yet comfortable sharing our workloads with robots

Close to a quarter of respondents felt AI had already impacted their industry, but just under 20% said they were completely comfortable sharing their workload with robots or processes automated by AI. Surprisingly, those in the 18 to 24 age bracket had the highest level of unease about this.

Lifelong learning is the best way to remain relevant

While the barometer found a workforce in a somewhat sombre mood, people were putting plans in place to acquire the skills they need.

It was good to see that 80% of respondents were planning to study in the future, with self-enrichment being the primary motivator (66%), followed by the aspiration to get further and be promoted (54%), and the desire to keep abreast with industry-related changes (41%). A total of 58% of people favoured online learning, and a number had already completed courses.

“This shows a workforce committed to continuously learning the new hard and soft skills that will entrench the adaptability required to survive the breakneck pace of the workplace,” Johnston says.

Those who had already studied listed the ‘big gains’ as being:

. Tangible results – like a salary increase, a promotion, skills (to be more marketable), more experience and more opportunities.

. Higher performance – like better knowledge, keeping up-to-date, better understanding of the way the workplace works, faster completion of tasks and having to employ fewer people as they had the skills themselves.

. Better motivation and soft skills – like being better at dealing with people, the ability to explain concepts to clients and overall improved communication skills.

“Given the competitiveness of the market, which will only increase with the rise of automation, having a sought-after skills set is the best way to guarantee ongoing job retention. This means using learning to get to grips with AI and RPA to build efficiencies and one’s overall value add,” says Johnston.

He says we also need to consider providing alternative adult education programmes to give young people the best chance of gainful employment: It’s important we make ongoing online learning materials easily accessible in bite-size pieces to make learning easier.”

Johnston also believes that a lot of learning is up to corporates.

“Providing ongoing executive-level education grooms great leaders and provides turnkey or customised solutions to bridge big capability gaps to foster greater efficiency, productivity and profitability. Our research shows South Africans are hungry to learn, so companies that provide this opportunity will have a greater chance of talent retention and attraction.”

. MasterStart provides online learning solutions for academic institutions to assist in building African leaders by connecting the student to university expertise through meaningful learning experiences. Its current offering of online short courses is built in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development Programme

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September 15 2019