Why Reskilling Is An Important Tech Opportunity for Associations in 2020

The idea of reskilling or upskilling was already an emerging trend even before COVID-19. Now it’s more important than ever—and associations can potentially stand out by leveraging their technology to provide next-gen learning opportunities.

When all of this shakes out, our economy and world probably won’t look quite the same as they once did. That can feel like a dangerous position to be in. But with the right mindset, it can also be an opportunity.

That mindset might involve a focus on reskilling or upskilling, the idea of teaching workers new skills to help them keep up with the innovations driving their industry.  There is room for associations in this trend. Last week, for example, the National Governors Association and the American Association of Community Colleges announced a reskilling initiative involving a network of 20 states.

“Governors across the country have been taking steps to prepare their residents for the jobs of the future, but the COVID-19 pandemic makes this effort much more urgent,” NGA Center Director Timothy Blute said in a news release.

An Accelerating Trend

They’re not alone in encouraging such initiatives, and the heightened urgency in an unstable employment environment is leading to renewed interest in educational tools that were once seen as second banana, like the massive open online course, or MOOC. These tools struggled to reach a potential audience but are now seeing huge upticks in use.

“Crises lead to accelerations, and this is [the] best chance ever for online learning,” Udacity cofounder Sebastian Thrun told The New York Times back in May. Thrun noted that the company was within a few months of running out of money just two years ago, leading to deep cuts in its staff. Now the opposite is true.

Large companies are taking advantage of the reskilling need as well, according to CIO, which reports that corporate giants like Shell are leaning heavily on offerings from services such as Udacity and Coursera to teach their workers increasingly important skills.

“The lifetime of digital skills is getting shorter and shorter,” Daniel Jeavons, who heads up Shell’s data science program, told CIO. “By adopting new skilling approaches we can support our workforce needs, while evolving to embrace new opportunities ahead.”

Not even counting the number of people who have been put out of work due to the COVID-19 crisis, the need for updated skills is widespread. KPMG recently reported, for example, that 84 percent of the tech companies that responded to its survey are teaching workers new types of skills. The problem is a lack of clarity about who, exactly, should get training.

“Once there is a solid understanding of current workforce capabilities, leaders need to decide who to upskill,” according to the report, The New Employee Deal in the Technology Industry [PDF]. “Since in-demand hard skills are constantly changing, organizations need to be strategic about who they choose to upskill. Formal learning programs, mentoring, and even online training are expensive and time consuming, so targeting the right individuals will be important.”

Where Associations Fit In

Upskilling isn’t cheap, and many organizations don’t have a Fortune 500 budget to invest. But associations can likely help their industries reskill through virtual events and ongoing online educational offerings that meet the needs their members have identified. This, of course, could mean significant business opportunities for your association.

Long before we knew the seismic shifts we would be facing, reskilling was expected to be a major trend in human resources departments this year. Research has focused on retraining as a long-term solution for specific segments of the workforce, including women. And as far back as 2018, the Association for Talent Development was sounding the alarm on a lack of training.

In almost every area, the coronavirus makes the day-to-day move slower and the big picture move a heckuva lot faster. This is one area where your association could benefit both its staff and its members by keeping up.

(Aleksey Sergienko/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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