Upskilling has been a buzzword for a couple of years now, and it is especially relevant in the current situation where many are looking for an opportunity to improve their skills and make sure they have an edge in the job market.
What you’ll learn in this article
- The difference between reskilling and upskilling
- Why is upskilling important?
- Upskilling of older workers
- What does upskilling mean to you?
- Why upskilling is vital for career growth?
- Where do you find upskilling courses and training?
- Digital upskilling courses
- Upskilling funding and financial support
The difference between reskilling and upskilling
If you ever wondered what the difference between reskilling and upskilling is, it’s not surprising as these two terms are very easy to confuse.
Reskilling is just a different way of talking about retraining. You’re learning new skills to eventually do a job that’s different to what you’re doing now or have done in the past. You can learn more about reskilling (retraining) in our career U-turn article.
Upskilling, on the other hand has nothing to do with changing your career, but improving your existing skills or learning a new skill to stay current and improve your performance at your existing job, or in the line of work that you do.
Why is upskilling important?
Advantages of upskilling go two ways: for you as an employee, and for your employer as well. It’s a classic win-win situation.
If you are upskilling at a workplace, you’re growing and developing your skills in that environment. When you practice that new approach that you’re learning, you are using your workplace as the perfect testing ground – and that deepens your understanding of the company. Your skills become even more aligned with the business and therefore you become more creative working with specific types of challenges.
This is highly beneficial for your employer as well, as you get to learn all the ins and outs of the business from a new perspective. Engagement grows, and that is one of the most important factors of employee satisfaction in the workplace.
Upskilling of older workers
One of the key advantages of upskilling is to do with older workers who can benefit greatly from using technology or learning new methods of managing business processes.
Many older workers have portfolio careers that allow them to combine multiple jobs, and upskilling is really helpful with successful management of that. It is also helpful with keeping up to speed with industry changes, automation, and adaptation to ever changing work environments.
We can’t be silent about age discrimination, as it is happening everywhere, and it doesn’t look good. It’s important that employers are mindful of this and focus on helping older workers stay active in the market through upskilling and retraining programs.
Respecting years of experience older works bring into the workplace combined with effective training programs brings that so much sought-after diversity to any workplace.
💡 Read more: Help and support for older workers on GOV.UK
What does upskilling mean to you?
Before jumping into an upskilling program that might take anything from just a couple of weeks to several months of your life – think about what it means to you and why you are doing it.
It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with countless opportunities for upskilling and choose the right one for you. Slowing down and understanding your priorities will be step one in your upskilling process.
These are some of the questions to consider when choosing your priorities:
- Am I enjoying my current job?
- Do I want to upskill or reskill – and change the job down the line?
- What do I enjoy doing currently and how can I take it to the next level?
- If I can master a particular skill – how would that affect my life? Would it make it richer, and in what way?
- What are my long-term thoughts about life?
- What is important to me besides having an income?
- How does my job fit into that vision?
Answering these questions honestly will make you more focused in choosing the right upskilling program that will serve your long-term goals and aspirations instead of being a shiny object that will not have a lasting effect on your life.
💡 Read more: How to change career at 40
Why upskilling is vital for career growth?
Career progression is not possible without constant learning and growth. And your priorities identified in the previous section will set your career progression course. Once you’ve identified your career trajectory – you can choose an upskilling program that suits your needs.
You might as well have no specific career aspirations for the future – and that is totally fine. In this case upskilling programs that make an impact here and now are the ones that would be most beneficial. All digital upskilling programs will be relevant here, as well as financial literacy and any other basic areas that make a business thrive. Instead of going in-depth with one topic, you can expand and broaden your knowledge of your industry, which is always a great thing.
In both cases, being interested in continuous learning and development is a sign of high self-awareness. Recognising that you can always learn more about a topic, and then applying the newly acquired knowledge to your daily processes is key to success.
Where do you find upskilling courses and training?
Finding upskilling courses and programs is simple: your employer might already have certain in-house programs in place and all you need to do is ask your manager, if not – a simple search online will uncover many opportunities.
If you’re unemployed – make sure you get all the support you can from the government. For instance, the Department for Education launched an amazing platform “The Skills Toolkit” that helps people build skills during coronavirus, and its main focus is digital upskilling.
Most of the upskilling courses are to do with digital upskilling and it’s for a good reason. As many roles become obsolete due to automation, it’s important to keep learning and leverage technology where appropriate.
Digital upskilling courses
What is digital upskilling? Simply put, digital upskilling is about empowering yourself through understanding how to use technology to your advantage. This would include direct experience with new digital tools and devices as well as theoretical understanding of how technology can be effectively used in your work life.
There’s many free online resources focusing exactly on digital upskilling, just to name a few:
- Google Digital Garage offers free digital skills training that will help using Google tools in your daily life. They have many courses on digital marketing, consumer behaviour and even how to build confidence with self-promotion.
- Tech Nation has a great collection of free digital upskilling courses that are broken down by different stages: Ideas and products, People, Operations and finance, marketing and sales, Brand and communications. All these are essential for everyone who is only thinking about joining a digital business or is looking to deepen existing understanding.
- iDEA (Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award) has many free mini courses to help anyone who wants to improve their digital skills. They have great courses on cyber security, digital ethics, e-safety, GDPR and more.
- Lloyds Bank Academy created an amazing source of knowledge with three tracks: for life, for business and for charity. They cover many topics starting from working with spreadsheets to managing finances online.
- Future Learn in collaboration with Accenture provide many digital skills courses that run for 2-3 weeks and you can join anytime.
And don’t forget about the good old YouTube as your number one learning academy, as it is filled with loads of quality content on any topic you desire.
For instance, this is a great video by Growth Tribe on top 7 digital skills to master the future of work and mentioning many resources that you can explore:
💡 Read more: 32 best online and digital jobs to consider right now (with salaries and job availability)
Upskilling funding and financial support
Explore everything that the government has to offer in terms of further education funding opportunities. Learn how to get advanced learner loans, further education transition grants and more on the official website.
Make sure you also search for council-specific information, community, and lifelong learning opportunities provided by your local government – these searches will surface lots of upskilling courses and information on specific financial support you might be eligible for.
If you’re employed, ask your company to support you in upskilling. Here are some tips on how to ask your employer to sponsor your training program:
- Asking for sponsorship is always better when you are in a good mood and are expecting things to go right – so start with that mindset of abundance and success before you write your email.
- While personal development is always great for you, what will your employer get out of it? Make sure you list key points discussing how a specific upskilling program will help the business and include tangible results that you’re expecting (can be anything from productivity increase to sales uplift).
- Show that you have looked at multiple providers and briefly explain why you chose the one you’d like to go with. In case you can’t decide which one to go with – put than on the agenda for your follow-up meeting.
- Make sure you set up a 1-to-1 follow-up meeting with your manager after you send out your initial email. Don’t lose momentum and do it within 5 working days, or things might end up being delayed forever.
No matter which upskilling program or course you’ll choose – it will be highly beneficial for your career progression and personal growth. And now, knowing how to choose the right course for you, and how to find financial support – you can feel more confident about your process. Good luck!
Author: Margo Barsukova