In the past three weeks alone, 15 million people, or 10% of the workforce, have lost their jobs due to the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, more than 26 million people filed for unemployment benefits since the start of the crisis, a staggering number that is only expected to grow in the coming weeks. Millions will now be forced to grapple with how to stay healthy and pay their bills.
While meeting basic needs is paramount, laid-off workers should utilize this interruption in their careers to develop new skills, which will drastically help them find their next opportunity in an unpredictable post-coronavirus labor market.
Even before the crisis, the world of work was undergoing a “digital transformation,” in which technologies, like automation and artificial intelligence, were changing the way people work and the skills necessary to do their jobs.
As the chief reskilling officer at my global talent solutions company, I work closely with companies to help identify the skills gaps in their organizations, including how to best “reskill” or “upskill” their employees to meet changing talent demands. However, despite the important of this area, the practice of skills improvement falls short.
A recent survey of human capital leaders by my company found, while 91% of companies felt they should be providing reskilling opportunities, only one in five were actually doing so. Many cited productivity demands or shortage of time as obstacles.
I understand the prospect of reskilling can be intimidating. Many of the most in-demand skills and jobs are in the tech sector in areas like artificial intelligence, data analytics, and cloud computing, but there are ways for non-technical individuals to upskill. My company has seen research on the need for “soft skills” that cannot be replicated by robots or AI, such as emotional intelligence, problem-solving, and communication skills. Furthermore, resources like Skillshare, Simplilearn, edX, Coursera, Codeacademy and Udemy offer a mix of zero- or low-cost training options for a variety of skills across various disciplines.
While learning new skills at home may not be the top priority for unemployed workers, proactively utilizing online courses to acquire new skill sets—in a remote, socially distant capacity—could make a dramatic difference in post-pandemic abilities to return to work or start a new career.
Interested in improving your skills? These are the top five in-demand skills that workers should look to reskill or upskill.
The World Economic Forum identified artificial intelligence specialists as the number one emerging data job in the future. According to LinkedIn’s online education website, LinkedIn Learning, artificial intelligence is a top hard skill for 2020, adding an extra level of efficiency to the human workforce.
A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 37% of employers cited problem-solving and critical thinking among the top soft skills that candidates were lacking. Applicants who can prove that they are able to think critically and find solutions to business problems will have a much better chance of being hired.
Data science and machine learning-related jobs, taken together, represent 5 of the top 15 growing jobs in America today. Data scientists and workers who can analyze raw data to find trends and answer questions will be crucial to businesses, as technology provides them with more data and information than ever before.
Employers are seeking staff who possess emotional intelligence, or the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.
A McKinsey study found that the demand for emotional skills across all industries in the United States will grow by 26% between 2016 and 2030. This soft skill allows workers to relate to others, recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, and also understand what a company’s clients are going through, making those with high emotional intelligence an asset to employers.
Digital/Social media marketing
Specialists who are experts in search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and email campaigns are in high demand. Applicants with marketing and digital skills that can help companies build their brands will be very attractive to employers in the coming years.
The coming months will not be easy for millions of Americans, and reskilling via online courses will not be the highest priority. But as unemployed or furloughed workers begin to think about their next role and returning to work during this period of sheltering in place, they should consider evaluating their current skill sets and utilize online courses to develop new ones.
While employers will have a large talent pool to choose from once the pandemic is over, applicants should do everything they can to reskill to become as attractive to employers as possible.
Wesley Connor is the global head of learning and development, also known as the chief reskilling officer, at talent solutions leader Randstad Sourceright.