Very recently, I was invited to be a panel member of a very interesting discussion sponsored by Gulf News, UAE, on whether there is a need to upskill/ reskill one’s education, especially during these challenging pandemic times that the whole of humanity is facing currently.

It starts with the changes in the normal due to Covid-19 epidemic. Unprecedented changes have occurred when this contagion started in early 2021. Globally, the gap between incoming and outgoing funds may reach $30 trillion soon. The auto industry sales may drop by 20 to 30 percent in 2020, and it’s estimated that profits will fall by $100 billion. A revenue loss worth of $ 252 billion has been anticipated in 2020 in the Aviation Industry. For banks, the pandemic has inherited cascades of credit risk, amongst many other challenges. In GCC alone, financial loss is expected to reach between $50 and $60 billion dollars in the Hospitality sector. About 1.5 billion students— close to 90% of all primary, secondary and tertiary learners in the world — are no longer physically able to go to school.

So, the question arises: what needs to be done? The first priority is to reenergize the organization—to act rather than react. Not only do leaders need to act now, they need to act boldly. Previous McKinsey research has found that companies that made substantive changes fared better coming out of downturns than those that didn’t. 69% of business leaders felt that a better approach to talent and skills was needed. Improving one’s online presence has become a norm now.

However, there always lie opportunities in adversity. Now we have more time to reflect and reconsider, we are getting a cleaner environment, people are working from home, online learning has become the standard of engagement, current data in UAE has shown that there is an increase of 21% overall enrolments among learners in the UAE, there is greater focus on health and hygiene. This is what we need to exploit and this is the right time now to educate, educate, educate.

How we can upskill in our careers during the Covid-19 crisis is to upgrade our knowledge and skills in digital transformation, AI, analytics, automation, management, leadership. There is an acute shortage of proficiency in data skills and analytics, business and soft skills of employees, leadership requires more sharpening, especially during remote work. For companies, upskilling enables them to build a future-ready workforce; for individuals, it’s a way to keep their skills relevant and stay future-ready themselves, as per Deloitte Upskilling Imperative Report. Upskilling is not only about increased competency, it also improves resistance against threats and challenges in a highly volatile market after Covid-19 pandemic also.

The value of upskilling cannot be emphasized more. According to Mckinsey , “to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, companies should start reskilling their workforces now.” Employee turnover is expensive, employee retention is the key. According to SHRM skills gap research, 83% of HR professionals are having recruiting difficulty as there is a shortage of skills in candidates for job openings. The India Skill Report of 2019 denotes that only 45.6% of the graduating youth are actually employable due to lack of relevant knowledge and skillsets. Thus, upskilling will always boost the workplace morale and motivation, it will increase productivity. Greater talent acquisition will be beneficial both to employees and employers. The need is to create a culture of learning.

The need for good effective leadership is the call of the hour. 82% believe that leaders in the new economy will need to be digitally savvy, and less than 10% of respondents agree that their organizations have leaders with the right skills to thrive in the digital economy. The leaders should be able to adapt to the changes that have occurred around us since the beginning of this pandemic. Hope Joan (2020) states that we need leaders more than managers, because leaders will provide a way through the crisis. Leaders must seek to strengthen and apply emotional intelligence, empathy and social management skills to manage and lead people during this crisis hour. Delegation and effective, efficient communications have to be the norm that is required to be followed with the basic premise of following ‘Leadership without Ego.

How the universities and colleges can implement the upskilling and reskilling that fit into the corporate world is to make training and development opportunities readily available and affordable for everyone by ensuring adequate financial support to students. They have to accommodate different learning styles for students from culturally diverse backgrounds. There has to be a robust IT friendly structure by choosing good, user-friendly digital technologies. We need to understand students’ needs, and adopt a flexible approach to student participation in online training. Fast agile adaptability to change is the need of the current times.

The current trends in acquiring MBA, DBA, PhD and other educational certifications is to concentrate on development of hard and soft skills of all students, to effectively manage complexities and changes in a business environment. We have to adopt inclusive culturally responsive teaching, to cater to the diverse reach of online education. More and more colleges and universities are adopting responsible leadership training, where leadership training is a mandatory part of the curriculum. Students today want to test drive business schools and their programmes, build up credits, and acquire MBA or other qualifications, in a time frame suited to their requirements. Entrepreneurs today going for MBA/ DBA are becoming common, and online MBA/ DBA, advanced diplomas, diplomas and short programmes are gaining popularity.

Top reskilling and upskilling courses available in colleges and universities are programmes available onsite, online, blended and videos for students to choose from. Live synchronous e-classrooms are here to conduct live classes. Learning Management System (LMS) for staff and students is available for sharing of academic resources and communicating. Short courses are being offered in different management domains.

So let’s get moving, let’s study, let’s educate ourselves and be ready for the new world, this time may never come back again, let us see the opportunities to advance further in our careers by acquiring the requisite knowledge, skills and certifications to be able to face the challenges ahead of us with a smile. For working professionals, entrepreneurs, CEOs, everyone, acquisition of knowledge is the need of the hour, and no education goes waste, so enroll yourself with a prestigious school, choose a programme which will keep you ahead of the changing curve. Athena Global Education (AGE) is one such fine institution which can fulfill all your requirements of upskilling/ reskilling, and make you into an effective leader to take on the world.

Col (Retd.) Anil Ahluwalia
Academic Director- Westford Education Group
Anil Ahluwalia has more than 30 years of experience in the domain of Academic, Corporate, HR and Business Management Training Services and is acclaimed as an outstanding leader. The various training programs conducted by him have immensely benefited senior and junior management employees, managers, supervisors, front-liners and staff from various industries. Prof. Ahluwalia is presently spearheading conduct of all training courses for Westford School of Management in UAE, India, and other regions, as the Academic Director.