The World Economic Forum estimates that for every job lost to industry 4.0 transformations in the coming years, two new ones will be created. In this scenario, the greatest challenge we face in employability is not fending off AI-powered robots vying for our jobs but sprucing up our skills palette to be able to meet emerging opportunities.
With smarter technologies, flexible supply chains, changing consumption patterns, and the creation of global niche markets, the conditions are now ripe for a new strand of skills leadership that values evergreen learnability: the openness to ongoing improvement of abilities.
There is no shortage of offers for reskilling and the overwhelming deluge of training courses, expert-panel webinars, specialist newsletters and books often prey on the collective frenzy of trying to keep ahead of everyone else in the labour market. There are two critical fallacies with this line of reasoning, though, and unless effectively addressed they risk turning any reskilling project into a fool’s errand.
First, reskilling is not a competitive activity. Upgrading of skillsets should not serve a survival-of-the-fittest mentality where those who perform least lose out. On the contrary, reskilling and upskilling are a collaborative exercise where the development of one person depends on the proficiency of others. Acquired abilities form new clusters of competences across the entire playing field.
The second misconception about reskilling is that it is a private pursuit. Personal initiative is, of course, a key characteristic of employability today and increasingly so in the future, but comprehensive reskilling is greater than the sum of its parts. Investment in reskilling should not be seen as the responsibility of the individual in chase of their own ambitions. Every sector – private, public, or social – has a stake in fostering a skills-oriented ecosystem that promotes new learning and knowledge diffusion.
If reskilling is to reach its potential, it must be approached as an intrinsic ingredient of the common good, much like national infrastructure or the taxation system. In turn, a sound reskilling strategy leads to economic development and focuses innovation on more granular needs and wants.
The challenge of reskilling is not simply about ensuring enough jobs; not even about creating better-paid jobs. Reskilling is a collective effort to generate timely answers to bigger questions, and there has probably never been a better time to illustrate the power of collaboration and shared purpose than this first year of the decade.