Business landscapes are changing, meaning businesses and workers must now look to workforce development to thrive. Upskilling is the key!
Like many countries, Canada is currently on the cusp of a digital skills crisis. While modern work landscapes have created a plethora of exciting opportunities, studies have highlighted the fact that 86% of Canadian workers feel equipped for the future of work. The same research has shown that while upskilling is something 73% of the working population plan to do, just 13% are actively pursuing lifelong learning.
Workforce development is the natural solution to arguably the biggest problem currently facing the Canadian job market, providing a range of benefits for employers and employees alike. This article looks at some of the reasons why Canadians must now focus on upskilling to accomplish their short, mid, and long-term goals.
The economy no longer supports staying in the same job
Arguably, the most compelling reason behind the growing demand for digital skills and tailored knowledge is that the fundamentals of business have undergone a seismic generational shift. For many decades, many career-driven individuals would go to college, earn a degree, and then find a position where they could continue to climb the internal career ladder before retiring at 60-65 with a golden handshake. Not any longer.
Research shows that Gen Y graduates held 3.9 jobs during the opening 12 years of their careers, meaning they spend under three years in each role. In short, experts predict that most Canadians can now expect to hold 15 positions during their working lives. They subsequently face two main challenges as part of their lifelong learning – develop universal skills, and keep pace with evolving technologies.
The days of staying in the comfort zone of a job that never changes for 20 years or longer are a thing of the past.
Lifelong learning supports an aging work population
The average retirement age in Canada was 64 in 2019 just before the pandemic, and it is only set to move in one direction in the post-Covid era. Embracing the benefits of lifelong learning today doesn’t only deliver immediate benefits as workers complete the translation into a digital world where cloud-based skills are essential. An earlier introduction to developing new tech-based talents will empower them by making it their new norm and, crucially, the most effective route to increased earning and career stability – even if it means changing roles more frequently.
Lifelong additionally delivers personal benefits for workers, not least because it is shown to actively slow the rate of age-related mental and cognitive decline. The correlation between education in later life and reduced functions has been scientifically shown to impact communication, social interaction, and independence. An aging population can subsequently anticipate holding their positions for longer while, perhaps more importantly, reaping the rewards in their personal lives during the final years of their careers and into retirement.
Preventing or slowing the decline positions workers to keep pace with the next generations, too.
Online education is now the norm
For many years, accessibility to higher education and specialized workforce development posed a major stumbling block, even in situations where employers and employees were eager to embrace upskilling opportunities. Given that the cost of a Master’s degree in Canada can be as high as $65,000, combined with the lost earnings during the studies, going back to school in a traditional sense simply isn’t on the agenda for most workers.
However, if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that online education delivers a cheaper and more convenient solution that works for employers and employees alike. Workers can continue their education and familiarize themselves with digital skills needed for the modern world in their own time, while businesses avoid the threat of losing workers for months to complete a course and can simultaneously monitor individual and collective progress.
Workers who embrace online learning are also more likely to accept change, challenge themselves, and take pride in making trackable progress.
Upskilling is mutually beneficial for employers and employees
As companies look to roll with the changing economic climate in the post-pandemic rebuild, designing programs that lead to jobs and actively mould employees into suitable candidates for their businesses is an ongoing feature of workforce development. It sets up a mutually beneficial agreement for all parties.
For employers, the demand to make financially savvy decisions is greater than ever. Research has shown that advanced staff training can increase a company’s income per employee by over 200%. Upskilling can help companies leverage success from intelligent, motivated, and technologically minded workforces.
Employment hit a record low of 52.1% at the beginning of the pandemic. While there has been a major recovery since, it has shown employees that versatility is vital. The ability to embrace WFH models, for example, can strengthen a worker’s job security while also opening doors in an increasingly globalized business arena.
The government faces a real headache as it looks to hit the reset button and shift away from the ‘back to work’ initiatives in favour of sustainable employment pathways. Lifelong learning can feed into clearer paths. The global report on upskilling for shared prosperity clearly established the economic growth that more skilled workers bring.
Upskilling starts now
Whether you’re an employer or employee, workforce development and lifelong learning are essential. They encourage increased productivity, profitability, and long-term stability across all industries to help beneficiaries maintain relevance in Canada and overseas for many years to come.
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