Why upskilling will future-proof a business

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It is expected that by 2025, 85 million jobs globally may be displaced as a result of technology. However, as we continue to adopt technology into our work lives, 97 million new roles have been predicted to emerge. With this in mind, forward thinking companies should upskill their employees in order for their businesses to remain competitive, urges HyperionDev’s Caissa Veeran.

Currently, South Africa is faced with a skills gap. This is reflected in a 2020/21 survey released by XpatWeb that shows the demand for ICT skills remains steady, with 13% of respondents indicating that they struggle to source skilled professionals to drive their operational demand to transition into the digital economy.

The survey revealed that the most sought-after jobs include IT Application Developers, Data Analysts, Data Scientists, Software Developers, Software Engineers, IT Program Managers, and Network Architects.  

With this in mind, upskilling on-the-job is a sustainable option to bridge this skills gap through ongoing training and development programs, especially as many long-established and experienced employees are running the risk of becoming obsolete.

It is also often simpler to address the skills gap by training the existing workforce rather than recruiting a new candidate. However, after the economic fallout from last year’s COVID-19 pandemic, many employers may be tempted to shelve employee upskilling plans for the future. It is important to note that although upskilling can seem costly, it provides a significantly higher return on investment.

Learning code is a win for all 

The best place to start when it comes to future-proofing a company is to upskill employees with coding skills. Even providing non-technical employees with the chance to learn code gives them the opportunity to advance in their current roles or uncover new areas they may have an interest in or aptitude for. This makes it more likely they’ll stay with the company as their professional goals evolve.

In addition, it assists with arming employees with skills such as problem solving. Although many think that this is a soft skill, it’s one that’s best practiced through learning to code. That’s because part of learning to code is learning how to think like a programmer and defining a problem, breaking it down into smaller pieces, and exploring various possible solutions.

By understanding what developers, engineers, and data scientists do, non-technical roles will be in a better position to work with them to co-create solutions or products, ultimately benefiting the business

Equipping your employees with coding skills prepares them for the future of work and gives leadership a greater opportunity to fill future talent gaps internally. It’s a win-win. 

Coding is everywhere

All sectors of the economy need programmers. As the healthcare industry leverages data to improve, it will result in more efficient operations and better patient outcomes. Agriculture and the blossoming agri-tech sector need talented coders to help solve the complexities of food supply. In finance, programming is useful in setting up electronic trading systems, pricing derivatives and creating tools to analyse data. Finance professionals rely on programming languages like Python for risk management, pricing, and trade management programs

As marketing continues to expand into the digital realm, employers look for candidates with programming skills. Product managers, in particular, often blend marketing with technical skills as they design and create new products. 

But nowhere is coding more needed than in artificial intelligence (AI), as man and machine join forces to work in simpler, quicker and more cost-effective ways. As the digital landscape rapidly changes, the focus of today’s world is around AI. The need for AI engineers exists in all fields, as artificial intelligence is one of the fastest-growing areas for high-tech professionals. 

Upskilling retains and retrains staff

In order to create a robust upskilling program, employers need to devise a strategic plan. This can be done by building a long-term view of the company’s skills requirements, mapping out the current workforce’s strengths and gaps, as well as identifying the skills in which employees could be trained. The goal is to be proactive and stay ahead of future demands to get an edge over competitors.

Learning and development is the critical link in employee retention. It signals that the employer values its people and is invested in their success. An employer who doesn’t focus on upskilling is certainly going to lose out.

No matter the industry, job roles and the skills required to do them are rapidly being redefined. Additionally, technology is advancing so fast that linear career paths are a thing of the past, with employees of today constantly trying new roles and learning new skills. As such, companies should be looking for ways to future-proof their staff in these uncertain times and make their business less vulnerable to external shocks. 

Caissa Veeran is the head of partnerships at HyperionDev, which provides online and one-on-one coding bootcamps that accelerate students’ entry into a fulfilling tech career. She is passionate about being part of evolving the educational landscape, not only through delivering knowledge, but more importantly by assisting students to develop skills that keep them future-fit and improve their employability.