We’ve successfully made it through 2020 and stepped into 2021. But as many will agree, the journey hasn’t been an easy one. Across the globe, people from all walks of life, be it teachers, students, self-employed individuals, professional workers, or artisans – the pandemic affected everyone in some way or the other. And while each person’s journey through the past year has been different, one thing has remained common for all – upskilling.
2020 brought us face to face with one pressing truth – anything can happen to turn our lives upside down at any point in time. However, if you have the right mindset to learn and adapt to your surroundings, things will get much better, if not easier.
The lockdowns and self-quarantine periods have pushed us to limit human contact and embrace the digital way. From essential shopping and food delivery to education and office meetings – our everyday physical interactions and activities turned into digital events. Each and every sector of the industry has undergone a massive transformation since the pandemic started, forcing people to rethink their strategies and innovate new solutions to cater to the emerging market demands.
One of the biggest adaptations in the past year was that teachers and educators – who’ve always taught through the physical classroom-learning model – had to embrace digital tools and platforms like G-Suite, TED-Ed, Zoom, ClassDojo, and Edmodo for teaching students online. Teachers weren’t accustomed to using digital tools for teaching, but they learned how to do it when the situation called for it.
This is the kind of adaptation and the willingness to learn that the modern industry demands.
Why is 2021 the year of Upskilling?
Since 2020 was a trendsetter of sorts for all industries, tangible changes have occurred across the entire industrial canvas. It feels as if overnight, we’ve had to shift all our focus and energies to the digital domain for everyday tasks, education, and office work.
Naturally, learning, reskilling, and upskilling have been the staple requirements for both students and professionals. While upskilling allows students to gain the hottest trending industry skills, it enables professionals to increase their knowledge base and market value.
The present market scenario has become such that anyone who doesn’t possess the latest industry knowledge and skills is bound to become obsolete. If you wish to remain relevant in the game, you must upskill and reskill to enrich your knowledge and develop new skills.
According to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2018, nearly 54% of all employees must undergo reskilling and upskilling by 2022, of which 35% would require at least 6 months of additional training, 9% would require reskilling of at least 6 -12 months, and the remaining 10% would require skills training of over a year.
Programming, technology design, software development, business intelligence (BI), business analytics (BA), data science, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, cloud computing, augmented reality (AR) & virtual reality (VR), and project management, are some of the highest-grossing and in-demand skills in 2021.
Apart from technological skills, companies want their employees and new recruits to possess a wide range of ‘human’ skills, including creativity, analytical thinking & innovation, active learning, negotiation, communication & interpersonal skills, attention to detail, resilience, adaptability, and complex problem-solving. Management, leadership, social influence, and emotional intelligence are a few other human skills that companies and organisations value incredibly.
However, today the paradigm of learning and development can no longer stay confined to classrooms and corporate training sessions. Companies and employees both must actively invest their time and efforts towards professional training and certification programs.
Typically, certification courses and training programs are designed to cater to specific upskill demands of students and professionals. The curriculum is highly industry-specific, focusing on the latest topics, interest areas, tools, frameworks, and applications to help learners gain a comprehensive understanding of the domain they wish to pursue.
At upGrad, this has forever been our prime focus – to identify the trending industry topics and fields of study and design best-in-class certification courses, ranging from short-term diploma programs to full-fledged undergraduate & postgraduate degree programs.
Our programs are designed in collaboration with some of the most reputed and well-established educational institutions in the world. Also, our teaching approach is quite unique since we believe in combining theoretical learning with practical experience gained through case studies, assignments, and projects.
Learning & Development: What to Expect in 2021?
Upskilling – As I’ve been saying since the beginning of this article, upskilling and reskilling are the prime focuses of 2021. Upskilling not only teaches professionals how to be proficient in leveraging new-age technologies and tools but also allows companies to attract top talent and boost their employee retention. When organisations encourage their employees to upskill/reskill, it shows that they’re genuinely invested in helping their employees become better professionals. Eventually, your employees become fiercely loyal and highly productive assets of your company.
Virtual learning – Since no one is sure when our lives will get back to normal, we’ve to adjust ourselves to the “new normal” and accomplish as much as we can virtually and digitally. Educational institutes as well as companies will actively engage in creating quality digital content to promote virtual learning and training via podcasts, webinars, etc.
Workplace collaboration – With work-from-home becoming the new norm, there’s hardly any scope for social interaction among employees as was the case in an office setting. However, work cannot suffer. Employees must learn how to use collaboration tools and platforms, how to be in sync with cross-functional teams, and communicate effectively with their colleagues.
Learning Experience Platforms – In keeping with the present pandemic situation, recruiting, onboarding, service orientation, and training have all gone digital. Thus, the demand for learning experience platforms that offer a highly social, personalised, and digital learning experience for users is bound to skyrocket. These platforms are particularly useful for large enterprises/corporations since they integrate multiple learning resources within a single portal.
Data-oriented learning – While there’s no surprise that data is king now, in 2021, data will be a core aspect of corporate learning and development. Companies are eager to use data insights not only to find innovative business solutions but also to create a workforce of the future.
The learning model is fast-changing from a standalone approach into a consolidated culture of continuous learning coupled with active engagement.
How to Upskill?
For anyone who wishes to steadily rise through the industry ranks, learning and upskilling are continuous processes. Although the beginning may seem overwhelming when you have little idea of where you want to venture, taking baby steps makes the process much more streamlined.
Here are 5 simple steps to Upskill in 2021:
1. Identify your Goals
This is the first step towards upskilling. You need to figure out which direction you wish to take. To figure out your goals, you must deliberate on which field of study interests you, what career profile you aspire for, what are your career goals, and where do you see yourself in the long run. This holds specifically true for students as they’re about to begin their careers. However, for professionals, upskilling goals primarily revolve around career transition, rising above their present ranks, or increasing their professional value.
Hence, no matter where you stand in your career graph, it is crucial to determine how you foresee your career and what you want to accomplish from it.
2. Identify Future Skills
If you wish to upskill, why not choose a skill that’s here to stay?
Future skills essentially entail those skills that have a significant bearing on our present and will continue to influence the industry demands in the future as well. As I mentioned earlier, artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, data analysis, software development, project management, digital marketing, healthcare & nursing, and law, are some of the top skills to look out for in 2021. Thankfully, upGrad offers top-notch courses and programs in each of these trending fields – no wonder why we’re India’s largest and most well-liked online higher education platform!
Once you’ve identified the future skills, pit them against your career goals. See which skill domain fits your bill and proceed accordingly.
3. Figure out your Strengths and Skills
You must be well-aware of your biggest strengths and professional skills. While gaining a diverse range of skills is excellent to stay ahead in the competition, it is also important to align your upskilling goals with your existing skill set. After all, you don’t wish to be the Jack of all trades and Master of none, right?
When you chart your upskilling path according to your skills and interests, you hold a greater chance of increasing your market worth. By choosing a course that aligns with your skills and interests, you’ll actually look forward to your learning sessions, take part in peer-to-peer interactions, and collaborate with your peers.
4. Use your Network Optimally
If you aim to acquire industry-relevant skills, what’s better than seeking advice from people who’ve mastered how to analyze the industry graph?
This is where your network connections step in. Use your connections to gain industry insights, make new connections, and gain commendable advice on what’s the best pathway for upskilling. Talking to people and gaining their insights will help broaden your point of view and maybe even put things into perspective. So, make sure to use your connections to the fullest!
5. Choose the Ideal Upskilling Program
Now that you’re fully aware of what you want, what your strengths are, and which domain you wish to upskill in, it’s time to choose the perfect upskilling course/program that will help you materialise your aspirations.
When choosing a course, compare and contrast the course curriculum, benefits, and career support options of different institutions or learning platforms. This will help you get a 360-degree view of what your options are, thereby, helping you make an informed decision. Make sure to pick a program that offers ample scope for your personal and professional growth.
Upskilling is not another buzzword but a reality of the present world. The more open you are to learning new things and developing new skills, the faster you can climb up the promotional ladder. Upskilling helps enrich your knowledge base, keeps you updated with the trending topics in the industry, and who knows, might even get you that promotion and salary hike you’ve been hoping for!
Learning and upskilling do not have to be something you “must” do to survive in this cut-throat competition, they can be fun too – the secret is to find your passion and calling!