From Soft Skills to STEM: Where Will We Get the Skills to Get Ahead?
The half-life of skills is dropping: for technical skills, it’s a brief 18 months. How people learn, and what they learn, on an ongoing basis is a hot topic as freelancers and other organizations try to navigate the changing workforce.
In this look at what’s trending in the world of work, we highlight three articles that dig into the discussion around soft skills and education—specifically some of the newer non-traditional and corporate-driven paths.
As the nature of work evolves, we need to embrace non-traditional forms of education | The Globe & Mail
Not only are traditional degree programs no longer the only path to education, in many fields alternative forms are increasingly the norm. It’s something Sridhar Venbu, co-founder and CEO of Zoho Corp, said companies need to embrace both to encourage employees to reskill and in order to keep up.
It’s important, he said, for businesses to explore options such as adjusting job requirements, leveraging apprenticeships, turning to external training platforms, or building their own training programs.
“Technology is changing the work force and widening the skills gap at breakneck speeds,” he said. “We need to reimagine what modern education looks like.”
Why we like it: The future of work won’t be about college degrees. Instead, Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel said it will be about skills: “And no one school…can ever insulate us from the unpredictability of technological progression and disruption.” Freelancers are already more likely than non-freelancers to pursue skills training in order to stay relevant; it’s a mindset every worker will need to adapt.
Amazon plans to upskill 100,000 employees. Here’s what that means for the future of work | Fast Company
Like Zoho Corp, Amazon sees the need for ongoing skills development and is ready to take action: It recently announced that it will invest US$700 million to retrain a third of its U.S. workforce in new technologies.
While some observers believe this kind of initiative will become more common, Scott F. Latham, an associate professor at University of Massachusetts Lowell, isn’t convinced it’s a role corporations should play.
“The jobs of tomorrow will require at least some competency in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math,” he said. “But do we want to leave it to companies like Amazon to take the lead in making sure we’re ready?”
In a call to action for higher-education institutions to step up, Latham noted the strength of alternative learning programs—but also that workers will increasingly rely on them if traditional programs aren’t able to adapt.
Why we like it: Skills training is clearly top of mind—and so is accessibility for all workers. There’s a need for reliable access to high-quality education. While many institutions use massive open online courses (MOOCs) to deliver content to learners around the world, Latham pointed out that there’s still a gap: Companies like Amazon and Google are turning to other partners for help.
Critical thinking, including the desire and willingness to learn, takes focus. In fact, author and Georgetown University professor Cal Newport believes someone’s value to a company is ultimately driven by their ability to focus.
However, he said, focus isn’t something modern work encourages. From always-on technology to an expectation that people will be available 24/7, time to focus is at a premium. “In knowledge work, the main resource is the human brain and its ability to produce new information with value,” he said. “But we are not good at getting a good return.”
Why we like it: One discussion that came up during Upwork’s third annual Work Without Limits™ Executive Summit was the idea that work is increasingly based around projects. This is a good fit for one of Newport’s solutions: That agile-style sprints should be adapted to suit all knowledge work. “Assembling only the most essential people together to work on a project from start until finish without distraction and with clear goals will keep the process efficient,” he suggested.
As the managing editor of the Upwork blog, Amy Sept works with regular and guest writers to share information that helps freelancers and businesses navigate the future of work.View Amy Sept’s other articles