Upskilling: What Is It—And How Can It Change your View of Hiring?

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U.S. employers have hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs open, but many struggle to find candidates with the right technical skills to fill them. Meanwhile, many new college grads are struggling to launch productive careers because they don’t have the specific skills—data analytics, coding, and digital marketing, for example—that employers really need.

This is the skills gap.

Whatever your industry, you’ll soon find yourself looking across the skills gap, wondering how to get to the other side. You won’t be alone. A recent study found that 79% of CEOs worry that their employees’ current skills aren’t enough to meet quickly changing workplace needs. A McKinsey Global Institute report found that up to 375 million workers worldwide may need to find new occupations as digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to disrupt the workplace.

The skills gap is real. And it’s kind of a big deal.

Fortunately, there’s a powerful tool to address it.

The Solution: Upskilling

Put simply, upskilling means adding new skills to a worker’s capabilities. It could involve traditional learning methods like university courses, mentoring, or apprenticeship programs. Or it could take a newer form, like “microlearning” (targeted training delivered in short bursts), augmented-reality-enabled learning, gamification, or mobile apps.

The methods vary, but effective upskilling is specific, based in real-world examples (no theoretical noodling here), and immediately applicable.

And unlike the traditional university degree, upskilling is never “one and done.”

Companies are taking the lead

Remember those CEOs worried about the skills gap? Well, they realize that they can’t rely on governments, universities, or workers themselves to deliver upskilling resources.

So businesses are taking the lead. For example, AT&T has committed more than $1 billion to retrain workers over the next several years. Amazon has announced a $700 million investment in upskilling its workforce—training more than 100,000 employees to move into new roles. In Amazon’s case, they’ve built their own in-house tech academy to teach skills in machine learning, robotic systems, and cloud computing.

Your company doesn’t have to have Amazon-level resources to provide effective upskilling. For many organizations, the answer is to find the right partner. For some, that’s a traditional university or vocational school. For others, it could be a private-sector partner. At Avenica, we help companies fill entry-level professional positions by matching them with new college graduates who are smart, eager to learn, and ready to get to work. And if they don’t check every skill box? We offer innovative upskilling to get them there.

Which reveals another benefit of upskilling.

Upskilling hidden benefit: A new way to look at hiring

Upskilling can increase productivity and profitability. It can be a powerful recruitment and retention tool (in a recent survey of Generation Z workers, 91 percent said professional training is an important factor when choosing an employer). It can even make a company more attractive to investors.

But there’s another powerful benefit: it can help you rethink the way you hire. When technology is changing constantly, hiring for specific skills isn’t the best strategy. It makes more sense to hire for the right person—and then upskill them with the skills you need.

As Scott Dettman, CEO of Avenica, puts it in his article for Training magazine, “The secret behind great companies is, and always has been, great people. The right people, receiving the right support, have the power to drive limitless growth and innovation.”

Lifelong learning, for employees AND employers

The traditional learning path, at least for professional/managerial roles, has been the four-year university. And there is good data to show that a college degree is still a good investment.

But that’s just the beginning.

To succeed in the future, everyone will have to be a lifelong learner. And every employer will need to offer a constant stream of upskilling resources to keep their employees current with ever-evolving technological change.

Looking for a new role? Browse our current job openings and apply today!

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