Upskilling, professional development and career development are terms you've probably heard of before. But like many buzz words, you might be unsure exactly what they mean for you and your career.
Upskilling is essentially anything you do to add to your existing skill set. Attending a conference, completing a short course, or taking on a project outside of your normal duties are all examples of upskilling.
If you've just finished a four-year degree, the idea of going back to study might make your stomach turn. But upskilling isn't about starting from scratch. It's about evaluating your current skills and building on them, by either deepening your understanding in an area or developing complementary skills to help you progress your career.
The days of studying once at the start of your career are over. Lifelong learning and continuing professional development is the new norm and those who don't embrace it will be left behind. While employers have a role to play, ultimately it's the responsibility of employees to ensure they keep their skills up-to-date if they want to continue to be seen as valuable members of their organisation.
New research from Deloitte claims the half life of learned skills is now around five years. That means your degree or industry qualification from just a few years ago could already be out-of-date. But don't throw away your diploma just yet. Upskilling doesn't mean those qualifications are worthless, it just recognises how quickly information changes and how important it is to keep up-to-date with what's happening in your industry.
The key takeaway here is that upskilling should no longer be seen as a 'nice to have'. It’s a necessity if you want to have a long and successful career.
If you're still not convinced that upskilling is important for you, let's take a look at how it can help you throughout the different stages of your career.
For career changers
Gone are the days of working your way up the career ladder in a single organisation. Today, more and more people are switching industries multiple times throughout their lives. While this is becoming an increasingly popular choice, casting your hard-earned skills aside to start from scratch may seem daunting for many.
That's where upskilling comes in. Your current career will have provided you with a range of soft skills, such as teamwork, problem solving and critical thinking, that are transferable to any industry. But upskilling can help you get those essential technical skills you need to get started in a new industry. Employers will value your years of experience, but if you're shifting gears entirely, there's a base level of information you'll need to acquire through upskilling in order to hit the ground running.
For professional development
It wasn't that long ago that a working knowledge of Microsoft Office was the most IT skills the majority of employees required. But with digital skills fast becoming a critical part of many workplaces, you might find yourself joining the increasing number of people who feel like they could benefit from some online training.
For personal development
Personal development is a little different to professional or career development, as it involves investing in 'soft skills' like communication, leadership, and time management. While these can certainly be of use to you in any career, they're also skills that can help you in your personal life.
When it comes to personal development, microcredentials, skill sets and short courses can be hugely beneficial, as they give you the chance to develop your knowledge in a specialised area without needing to commit to a full qualification or course.
For career breaks
People can take career breaks for any number of reasons, but the most common one is taking a break to care for their children. If you're getting back into the workforce after a long break, then upskilling might help you get back up to speed.
Besides getting you work ready, upskilling can also help boost your confidence at a time when you may be feeling apprehensive about getting back into the workforce. It also shows potential employers that you're passionate about the industry and serious about your future career.
This is the big one. Upskilling in today's modern world seems like a no-brainer. But when you're busy getting through the daily grind, it can be easy to put it in the too-hard basket. Is upskilling really that important?
The answer is a big, fat yes. A survey by HAYS of 951 employers found that 77 per cent are more likely to shortlist a qualified candidate who upskills regularly. That's great news if you're looking for a new job, but what if you're happy staying where you are?
Well upskilling can also reduce your risk of being made redundant. Given the current climate, anything you can do that shows you're an irreplaceable asset to your organisation will give you a better chance of riding out the storm.
On a similar note, regularly upskilling also allows you to future-proof your career. As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us, the only thing we can be sure of in this modern world is uncertainty. No position, company or industry is exempt from economic, technological or societal change. But if you have a wide range of skills under your belt, you can rest assured you'll have a better chance of finding a role in this ever changing economy.
Finally, upskilling and investing in your training can ultimately lead to greater remuneration and benefits. Whether you want to switch industries, progress up the ranks in your current organisation, or look for opportunities elsewhere, adding additional skills and qualifications to your portfolio will give you a leg up against fellow job seekers and allow you to command a higher salary in whatever role you land.
TAFE Queensland offers professional development training designed to help you boost your skills, no matter what stage of your career you're in. We have a range of professional development courses including certificates, diplomas, short courses, micro-credentials and skill sets that are offered online and via flexible delivery modes. Find out how TAFE Queensland can help you future-proof your career today.