Upskilling and Reskilling in the Post-Covid Era

By Gerard Walker, Future Jobs-Skills-Work Insights 

 

 

 

 

An EU conference on Upskilling and Reskilling in the Post-covid Era took place over June 29th and 30th, 2021. This online event of European and USA presenters focussed on the upskilling and reskilling challenges that countries currently face. The conference presented good practice cases, scenarios, and recommendations for creating new training and fostering new services and jobs creation. IITD members can access the conference papers and slides at the Skills4Industry website. 

 

There are cautious signs of improvement, with the EU economy expected to rebound in 2021 and 2022. Prospects for a quick recovery in world trade have also improved. Making the most of these trading opportunities will be a vital part of the recovery for companies across Europe.

 

However, smaller businesses continue to be vulnerable, with 60% reporting a fall in turnover in the second half of 2020. Women, youth, and low-income workers are particularly affected by the crisis, partly because they represent a majority of the employees in the sectors most affected.

 


An updated EU Industrial strategy1 offers new measures, particularly for SMEs, to accelerate the green and digital transitions and support the competitiveness of industries in the recovery. The European Cluster Collaboration Forum (https://clustercollaboration.eu/ ) is the EU's online hub for industry clusters that allows users to connect and collaborate with over 1,200 industry clusters across Europe, including knowledge skills.

 


The EU long-term Budget and NextGenerationEU, Recovery Fund of €750 billion, will support the recovery in Europe and reinforce the commitment to the green and digital transition. Future support was highlighted for individual learning accounts and micro-credentials that value the outcome of short courses. New Europe 2030 social targets have been set . These are that at least 78% of people aged 20 to 64 should be in employment (Ireland is at 73%) and for 60% of adults to participate in training each year (Ireland is 54%).  

 


Several presentations were given by European and USA experts from business, education and training providers, academia, and unions. The recordings of each of these presentations are available through the website YouTube channel Skills4Industry.

 

A selection of insights from presenters are: 


• PWC has just completed a $3 billion upskilling programme for its 280,000 staff worldwide called "New World-New Skills". This was a large-scale lifelong learning change process over three years. The initial focus was on digital/technology upskilling, how to adopt technology, and how to teach leaders to lead in this environment. A key lesson from the exercise was making sure that the learning is treated as a benefit for staff to be equipped with the right skills for future work. Staff must have time in their day job to upskill; otherwise, there will be passive resistance. Senior and middle managers need to recognise the benefits of the innovation. PWC had assumed a three-year payback on their investment in training, but the ROI was 18 months given the level of scalable innovation and creativity. (Chairman, PWC, USA) 

 

 

• The Continental Group is one of the biggest producers of automotive components and tyres in Europe. Continental has founded an Institute for Technology and Transformation with an initial focus is on the upskilling of unskilled and semi-skilled production workers. Programmes are certified by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Currently, there are 1,000 people in upskilling programmes. The concept behind the institute is that everyone at work needs to be upskilled and acquire future skills, not just an elite. Colleagues on the shop floor should be part of the learning journey and helped up the ladder to avoid unemployment. There is a social dimension to this work. (Continental AG, Germany)

 


• The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the aviation industry over the last year. Within Airbus Europe, the short-term focus has been on the transitioning and consolidation of learning and knowledge within the organisation, given the number of senior people leaving the aircraft manufacturing business voluntarily. At the same time, the trend within the industry towards the decarbonisation of aviation and digital design and manufacturing requires additional competencies and skills such as AI, Cloud Architecture, and manufacturing design. (Airbus France) 

 

• People need to learn continuously and to update the 'brain's software'. But the question is, are we all just too busy to learn? People need to set aside time to learn and reskill. Employers are looking for behavioural change, not just technical. While the rate of change of technology is exponential, it is people that will be the differentiator. (The Adecco Group, Switzerland) 

 

• In the Insurance Industry, jobs are moving from the Back Office (where algorithms are taking over the repetitive work) to the Front Office, requiring staff to have skills such as empathy and creativity. People need to be empowered to use technology to see the opportunities. (ERGO Group, Germany)

 

• People are selling their professional services worldwide on online platforms. A lot of the learning of these professionals takes place online within Communities of Practice. Traditional education is still essential as people need a basic foundation to build up new skills. (Centre of Digital Economy, UK)

 


• The digital revolution is accelerating, driven by the pandemic. Countries that invest in education make greater use new of technology innovation. However, the fruits of these advances are skewed towards educated people, with the remainder left behind. This trend has significant social implications. USA labour market institutions have fallen into disrepair. (MIT, USA)

 


• Technical and digital skills are a priority, but the number one skill is adaptability. T-shaped individuals are more adaptable. (IBM Research, USA) 

 

 

 

Key Takeaways 
The various papers and presentations in this EU Skills for Industry Conference on Upskilling and Reskilling in Europe provide a rich learning repository for L&D professionals. Common themes in presentations were the need for learning to be integrated into daily working life, that upskilling is for all the workforce, not just the most highly educated, and that skills such as adaptability, empathy, and creativity are essential along with technical skills in fostering new services jobs. Reskilling initiatives should be based upon an individual's current skillset and directed towards a defined new occupation or job opportunity.

 

1. https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/europe-fit-digital-age/european-industrial-strategy_en



 

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