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UPSKILLING & RESKILLING: The fundamental tools to be competitive in the digital industry

By Marta Moreno, Talent Manager at Víntegris

2016 is not a common date on the calendar, but rather when the concept of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” or “Industry 4.0” began worldwide. This name was created by Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, and is described in this way in his work “The Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

In his book, Klaus defines this revolution as creating a world in which virtual or physical manufacturing systems cooperate on a global level. In other words, factories will become smart and digital (Industry 4.0). New technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things), cloud analysis (Cloud), robotics, or machine learning will be integrated into them. Everything in the supply chain will become “smart,” from anchoring the first part to the final product. And not only that, all the information from this process will be collected on the different servers to conclude every time we want to make a change in manufacturing, in its materials, or to be able to predict consumer habits.

But what does this have to do with people?

We could say everything. Every industrial revolution, from the first that used the power of steam for the mechanization of the production chain to the present, has always been accompanied by a change in the workforce, that is, in people.

Throughout history, people have had to recycle or learn new professions to compete in the labor market. And it is at this turning point that we find ourselves today. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), more than 50% of workers worldwide must update their skills before 2025 to continue their professional careers.

The pace of digitization has grown so frantic in just a few years that the labor market cannot cope with the technological gap in which we find ourselves. Some technologies are so recent that there need to be more professionals to cover this demand. This translates into a growth in the specialization of IT profiles, in an upward salary bubble for this type of position, and an increase in the turnover of these employees in companies (misnamed as “jumpers” in HR jargon, for changing projects every so often to improve their salary conditions).

If we look at the professions that, according to different portals such as Universia, they name “the 10 best of the future,” we can better understand this trend. And it is that some names stand out, such as Machine Learning Specialist, Cloud Architect, Growth Hacker, Experts in Digital Intelligence, or Big Data Specialist.

At the educational level, study centers cannot be left behind in this revolution, either. That is why this academic year has seen different prestigious Spanish universities such as the Rey Juan Carlos University, Carlos III University, or the Polytechnic University of Valencia offering new careers more adapted to this future digitization. We find new academic degrees such as Artificial Intelligence, Data Science or Nanoscience, and Nanotechnology.

And in all this maelstrom of changes in business models and organizations, two fundamental new concepts are considered: reskilling and upskilling.

What are Reskilling and Upskilling?

We define reskilling as the recycling or retraining of an employee. That is the acquisition of new skills to reorient their professional future and be more competitive at work. We find ourselves with two types of situations in which a reskilling may need to be applied: workers who have been relocated to a different position than the one they were doing or whose position has become obsolete and needs to be updated.

On the other side of the scale would be upskilling or improving skills. In this case, it would be about training people in additional skills so that they can have more tools when doing their job.

The difference between these two concepts is clear. In the first concept (reskilling), we are talking about a comprehensive transformation of that employees because they become obsolete in their position or because he/she starts a new professional role. In the second scenario (upskilling), we would talk, for example, about training an employee with new skills or technologies, but always within the same role.

Both concepts are vital to use within an organization since its greatest asset is its workers. A good definition of reskilling and upskilling translates into training plans, performance evaluation, succession, and career plans.

What are the advantages of applying this methodology in companies?

We could say that everything related to the training and preparation of employees only results in positive things. For this reason, the concept called “lifelong learning” exists and refers to the importance of continuous learning. But if we had to highlight some benefits, these would be:

  • Retain and attract talent. The new generations that will lead the labor market (millennials and generation Z) highly value those companies that are committed to their training, which is why, if we want the best talent to stay in our organization, we must train them and have a good youth pool. This is what we call “engagement” (our ability to retain) and “branding” (corporate reputation) and which are so vital today.
  • Dynamic organization. An organization that promotes a culture of growth and evolution is a company with the tools to adapt to the environment and be competitive in the future.
  • Quoting Klaus Schwab, he pointed out the consequences of this fourth industrial revolution and the failure to train profiles. This lack of training could cause some people to be left behind and increase the inequality ratio between the so-called “high skilled/high paid” and low skilled/low paid jobs. For this reason, all employees must be digitally competitive.
  • Career plans. With reskilling and upskilling we can better define the career plan for those who increase their skills or recycle to other roles.

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What is the vision of Víntegris regarding this subject?

At Víntegris, since the arrival in 2021 of our new general manager, Javier Bustillo, one of his main commitments to the workers has been to invest and bet on their continuous training.

That is why, at the beginning of the year, once the individual objectives of each employee have been established, the training application period opens. In this process, we can all suggest what type of knowledge we would like to acquire that year to improve our professional profile. It is essential that each collaborator can proactively decide, as a leading actor, the role they want to have in the organization and where they would like to direct their next steps.

This training can cover knowledge plus “hard skills,” including those based on programming languages or certifications, or “soft skills,” more oriented towards leadership and communication skills. Success lies in the balance. It is essential to acquire a “hard” level of knowledge. Still, It is also important not to leave aside the “softer” aspects.

Víntegris aims to continue expanding the level of training annually and create an internal catalog with those pieces of training that have been best valued by our employees and have offered the best results.

As the famous English philosopher Francis Bacon said, knowledge is power!

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