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Michael Haberman
  February 16, 2018

Future Friday: Training is out, reskilling is in

The obvious statement of the day is that technology has had, continues to have, and will have an effect on jobs in the future. As a worker, no matter how hard you try to escape technology, it will catch you. What are we to do as employers, as a society, as parents, and as individual workers? One answer may be is that we need to invest more in training, but in reality, what we need to do is reskill workers. What is the difference?

Training versus reskilling

To me, training is making someone better at an already existing skill or providing them with the ability to perform a skill that has been around for awhile. For example, teaching someone to program or teaching them to understand the requirements of the FLSA. You are either improving someone’s ability or you are giving the chance to learn something new to them but not to the world. Don’t get me wrong, this needs to be done, but is no longer sufficient. Technology advances are moving too quickly and catching many people and workers unprepared to deal with new. The unfortunate circumstance, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, is that many of the jobs that will be affected by technology are held by women.


A report from the World Economic Forum reports that many countries and employers are not ready for, what they call the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They say “While 35% of the skills demanded for jobs across industries will change by 2020, at least 1 in 4 workers in OECD countries is already reporting a skills mismatch with regards to the skills demanded by their current jobs.” To me, reskilling is making workers adaptive and capable of rapidly adjusting to changing technologies, in order to move from one job to the next. It is making people capable, through a variety of education outlets, of adjusting to new job requirements. You can use the term agile if you like, as I did in “Agile HR” Means Looking Ahead. One of the agile principles is continuous learning and improvement, but learning the same old stuff may not get us there.

Learning, learning and more learning

The report by the World Economic Forum mentioned above, calls for a process of continuous learning. We seem to prepare workers to handle current skills but not to prepare them to have the ability to handle “what might be.” We need to be teaching much more adaptability skill sets and problem-solving than we are. The report says:

“The capacities of adults for adaptation is influenced by the quality of foundational education, cost and quality of ICT connectivity, prevalence of jobs incorporating digital exposure, as well as opportunities for lifelong learning inside and outside the workplace.”

Some countries are better set up to handle this, others not as much, as the report shows.

I am not able to give you the answer for how we teach children, young adults or current workers better problem-solving skills. I do know, however, that it is imperative for our future as a world, country, business and individual job holder that we are better prepared for quickly adapting to the changing circumstances of the working world, especially those caused by technology. Leaders, business and political, educators, parents and individuals need to provide as much exposure to problem-solving as possible. Emphasize and reward adaptability as much as possible.

I would be most interested to learn what you do in your organization to promote this type of learning to prepare people for the future of work.

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