April 17, 2020
The half-life of skills & how it can affect your enterprise
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April 17, 2020
The half-life of skills & how it can affect your enterprise
Ambreen Ali is a freelance reporter and writer based in New Jersey, and the former editor of digital media news for SmartBrief.
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If you have been in the workforce even a few years, you may have noticed that people graduating with the same degree as you already have skills you did not learn. The pace of change in skills, regardless of the line of work, is so rapid today that workers must constantly retrain and upskill to make sure they stay at the top of their game.

The “half-life of skills,” which measures how long skills are relevant in the workforce, is shorter than ever. An oft cited figure from the 2011 book A Culture of Learning, placed it at five years, but more recent research suggests that it has already gone down. Since the World Economic Forum wrote a report on this topic three years ago, an estimated 35 percent of all skills needed for jobs across industries have changed. At the time that the report was published, at least 25 % of workers reported that their skills were mismatched to the demands of their current jobs.

“Continuous learning lies at the heart of thriving in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the authors wrote, explaining that the nature of work has changed considerably in the last few decades.

Gone are the days when people could go to college or get professional training, enter the workforce, and grow in their jobs until they retired. Thanks to rapid technological innovation and shifting business models, nobody can have a successful career anymore without ongoing skills training.

The role of companies

Despite the challenge of knowledge obsolescence that most workers face, enterprises are woefully behind on investing in platforms that can help their employees gain skills quickly.

The World Economic Forum highlighted this problem in its report, writing, “Despite the growing need for adult reskilling, opportunities for broad-based and inclusive reskilling are currently not available at the appropriate levels of access, quality and scale of supply in most countries.”

That disconnect has created a gap in the labor market: In 2016, the Pew Research Center reported that 63 percent of workers received some level of job-skills training in the past year. Yet employers still faced ongoing talent shortages that persist to the present day.

It is imperative for companies to step in and play a role. Digital training tools present an unprecedented opportunity to teach new skills and upskill workers at a relatively low cost. E-training modules can be integrated into a worker’s schedule, completed at their pace and convenience, and customized to suit the level and needs of the individual. Further, they can provide simple ways to test skills, provide feedback, and suggest paths to further learning.

Continuous learning programs can go a long way towards helping today’s workers on the cutting edge of their fields. Constant training is beneficial not just to the individual, but to the enterprise. When workers have the updated skills to take advantage of the latest tools in their trade, they are equipped to execute their jobs as efficiently and effectively as possible – to everyone’s gain.

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This post was created in partnership with SmartBrief

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