Reskilling the workforce, one person at a lifetime
It is widely accepted that reskilling the current workforce is a critical imperative. As technology develops and industry shifts towards sustainability, millions of jobs are likely to be displaced; businesses and economies will need skilled labour to fulfil the millions of new roles that will be created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There is little doubt about the scale, urgency, and global nature of the challenge. But it also presents us with an opportunity to create long-term, sustainable, equitable and inclusive growth.
This shift needs to be propelled by lifelong learning. It must be underpinned by new measures of human endeavour that go beyond GDP to capture productivity, creativity and mental health. This may be ambitious, but it is no more outlandish an idea than driverless cars or commercial space travel. We can learn something important from the companies creating these technologies: they have a bold vision and prioritise testing and learning, design thinking, prototyping and continuous improvement.
High-performing companies realise that digital transformation is not a project that will ever be complete. Rather, it’s a new mindset of continuous improvement and re-invention of products and services. This in turn requires a workforce that is open to learning and developing.
For many, the prospect of making a mental shift towards lifelong learning will feel daunting. The term ‘reskilling’ can carry negative connotations, as President Joe Biden found out when he suggested that coal miners could transition to jobs of the future by learning to code. It needs to be framed as an opportunity: people who continue to improve their skills over their working lives also widen their opportunities. They can move closer to doing work they love, and this could have a profound impact on global wellbeing and productivity.
A personalized approach
A change on this scale will require a personalized approach. In the 20th century, services from broadcast TV to formal education tended to treat audiences or learners as large amorphous segments. In the 21st century, we need personalized services that give people access to the right education and training to suit their individual needs and context.
Employers should be the catalysts and accelerators of this shift. Many leading companies are already investing billions of dollars in training for their workforces. Many are deploying their resources to make a broader impact beyond their immediate and future workforces.
This opens up a major opportunity for education and learning providers. Accenture estimates that the learning and education market – broadly comprising four segments of content development, teaching and learning experiences, testing and certification, and outcome-related services – is a $7 trillion market that will grow to $8.9 trillion by 2025. Digital formats are expected to grow from between 9 to 12 per cent annually. This is unsurprising as just 3% of the education and learning expenditure is digital, in contrast with well over 30% in sectors such as entertainment and content.
What it takes to deliver learner centric products and services
The COVID-19 pandemic showed how incredibly adaptable our educators and learners can be. Supported by technology, millions of heroic teachers and service providers rose to the challenge from Google Classrooms and Zoom to Coursera courses and Byju’s learning programs. We need to extrapolate and learn from these successes – for all learners at all stages of life.
It starts with keeping the learner at the centre and creating a seamless experience - whether its online, offline or, as is more likely to be, blended. The experience covers all touchpoints of interaction with the learner - from marketing, brand and channels through to the actual product, payments and customer service. Whether they are provided independently by one organization or in partnership with others.
To consistently deliver this integrated experience in turn requires a set of foundational capabilities that include technology, data, talent, and insights on value being created - for the learner, the business and all key stakeholders. Working in sync, these capabilities help make the overall learning experience interactive, fun, immersive and personalized. This drives not just the adoption and usage of learner-centric products and services, but also expand their reach and efficacy, at viable economics. Chegg and Pearson are two examples of firms focused on such learner-centric experiences and capabilities.