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A new world – a new way of upskilling

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As the world continues to transform digitally, there is also a growing concern around how to retain the skills needed for the workforce of the future. While some believe technology and robotics may be the answer to the current skills gap, the reality is that human expertise is still needed to program machines.

As a long-standing teacher, lecturer and mentor within the technology and data space, it is becoming more evident to me that the continuous development of skills is the only way we will be able to navigate through this new digital world successfully. Yet, with things moving and developing at a pace that feels almost impossible to keep up with, how we are going to continue to teach, and upskill, for the future, if we ourselves find it difficult to stay on top of trends?

I strongly believe that imparting knowledge and skills should form a critical part of any technology expert’s job role – and in fact should even be included in key performance measures. While this has always been important for me, and although I remain dedicated to teaching those around me, recently I read an article that addresses the topic of rethinking reskilling, which made me realise that we need to change from the traditional ways of purely theoretical teaching.  This means examining how we can successfully adopt and adapt to new approaches to teaching and training, as this is where the gap lies – and of course the opportunity exists – if we truly want to accelerate and maintain continuous knowledge transfer and skills development.

Operating within a digital realm means that organisations need a workforce that is not only able to adapt as technology advances, but that can absorb and retain new knowledge as it comes to the fore. In other words, the skilled expert of the future is someone who can complete tasks while still learning on the job 24/7. While this can come across as rather daunting, in my experience, most workers are rather excited about the prospect to consistently learn and develop new skills throughout the year. They already understand that the skills they hold today will probably have limitations in a few years from now – unless they adapt and learn.

To this point, the article notes that traditional ways of upskilling are simply not effective anymore. Training seminars, short courses, online programmes will always have a place, particularly when it comes to theory, but how much information is being retained and from a practical stand view, are these courses alone viable?

The best learning ground is often the environment the worker is in as well as who the worker is surrounded by. Many organisations have a wealth of hidden talent in employees that they either don’t know about, or are not leveraging off, due to traditional views and structures around staff training programmes. However, going forward, if organisations want to ensure the right upskilling is undertaken, they will need to review their training processes and focus on an approach that examines existing staff and their skills – to map how these can be shared in a learning-based environment.

This will require the business to build a culture open to training and daily on-the-job learning. While it may feel like a time-consuming task, continual practical upskilling is what the digital world demands from us and taking the time to figure out such training methods will reap long term benefits for the business during its digital story.

However, like most things, making this change doesn’t come without some considerations:

  • Time – it takes time to complete tasks and time to learn. While one can learn on the go based on the task at hand, time is money and to avoid frustrations for employees, a business must consider how training time is incorporated into the day of the staff trainer and learning employee – to ensure a learning journey that is unified.
  • Context is key – with learning being incorporated into daily work tasks and activities, there will be times where context will need to be provided by the staff trainer to the learning employee – to ensure they listen, grasp and retain the skills being imparted. Offering the ability to practically implement a skill just learned is key to this process.
  • A mutual learning environment – the process of imparting and absorbing knowledge should be viewed as a two-way street, especially in the technology space. It is not simply about the knowledgeable expert imparting skills to the person learning. In many instances there may be something that the training employee can share or impart on the expert. It is important to instil a culture of mutual learning to ensure the full benefit of shared skilling takes place.

Yes, there is a skills gap in the technology field. Yet, it is likely a more practical based gap than a theory one. As a result, placing a focus on the right type of training and looking inward within the business to identify where existing skills are, gives a business the opportunity to harness these skills better. Surely this type of approach will better support the development of the future workplace of tomorrow.

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