Need a work promotion? Upskilling could be how you finally get it

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How to remain relevant in the workplace.
How to remain relevant in the workplace.
Visual Generation/Getty Images

Upskilling – it’s a word you’ll hear as often as “loadshedding” or “corruption”, and it’s just as important.

Both individuals and businesses need to be focussing on constant education or life-long learning.

There’s a subtle difference between three linked terms – skill, reskill and upskill.

When we talk about skills, we are referring to the attitudes and practical knowledge we need to do our job.

Reskilling implies providing new skills to enable someone to do a new job.

Upskilling is short-term training that supplements or updates skills you already have in your job.

In practical terms, upskilling means learning new skills on the job for the individual and, on a company level, it means providing those skills so the workforce can adjust to the ongoing dramatic changes caused by technology. As well as a learning-for-life mindset, we also all need to be flexible and willing to embrace new ways of working.

In the bigger picture, technological change means we need to look at education systems and find ways to make schools fit the needs of society better by producing future employees that are relevant to the workplace.

The big companies are already reacting to the skills gap. For example, last year Amazon announced the launch of its US$700 million “Upskilling 2025” to train 100 000 workers. The year before, telecommunications giant AT&T announced an investment of US$1 billion to retrain its workers. And there are many more business entities, both large and small, doing the same. If nothing else, this is because they will not survive if they don’t.

Whatever the reasoning, it’s good news for you and me – the workers.

Finding courses

Your starting point is to look within your own workplace. Most businesses realise the need for internal training programmes so their employees can do the jobs they need to do efficiently and effectively. Check with your boss or the human resources department on what in-house training programmes are on offer.

Some companies also offer free training sessions at weekends in things like coding that are open to everyone – not just employees. Universities and other learning institutions also run free programmes from time to time.

Otherwise, there’s a host of courses online. Some are expensive but there are also many that are either free or come a very low cost.

A lot of training centres around digital skills, as this is where the gap usually lies. Job search engine Adzuna suggests the following two sites to boost your digital skills:

  •  Google Digital Garage offers free digital skills training. The Google tutorials cover a variety of subjects from your website to online marketing and more.
  •  Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award, known as iDEA, is an international programme that helps you develop digital, enterprise and employability skills. There are free courses in everything from coding to e-safety and virtual reality.

Other useful sites, according to careers guidance and study site, include:

  • edX
  • Future Learn
  • Coursera
  • Regenesy’s Business School: Free Business Education
  • Alison
  • Udacity
  • Udemy

Choose wisely

As you’ll see when you begin your search, the internet is flooded with so-called free courses but you’ll need to read the conditions carefully.

Some may be genuinely free; others may require you to pay for certain things, such as downloading your certificate of completion.

Even if it is free, you don’t want to waste your time so make sure you know exactly what it is you want from your course. Focus on your specific needs before deciding.

Rather than engaging in many short courses to learn new skills, there may be better ways to boost your relevance to a company. For example, by tweaking your current skills rather than changing your focus altogether.

Not all courses are valuable to either you or your employer. It’s important to find out how widely your online training is recognised, so check if it’s accredited by an official educational body. If it’s not, search some more – you will find one that is.


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