Skills Will Be the Positive Outcome of a Crisis

Every generation has had a "crisis moment" that dictates and redefines the world of work. We're living through one right now, and it's coming down to skills.

Looking back through history, we can see the major events that have shaped the workplace. The Industrial Revolution sent people flooding into cities from rural areas like never before, but the formation of labor unions gave rights to those workers for the first time. (do you like a five-day workweek? Thank labor unions.) The child labor movement addressed the problem of children working in industries, in oftentimes hazardous and deplorable conditions, instead of staying in school and getting an education. It culminated in the Fair Labor Standards Act, which prohibits the employment of children under the age of sixteen and lists jobs that are too dangerous for young people to perform. World War II propelled women into the workplace in jobs like manufacturing, where women had never before been and the women's movement in the 1960s and 1970s opened up the workplace even further for women. #MeToo continued that legacy, effectively taking on harassment and discrimination at work.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the internet transform the workplace yet again, and within the past few years, we've been experiencing what is being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with advancements in digital technology, like AI, robotics, the Internet of Things, and even smartphones reshaping not just the workplace, but our lives.

Now, the COVID-19 economic shutdown and its aftermath will take its place in history alongside all of the other transformational events that have redefined the world of work.

What does that mean for employers, and job seekers, going forward? It means many things, but one word is rising to the top of that list. Skills.

Because the entire economy, except for "essential" industries, was shuttered, millions of people were suddenly working from home. It meant learning new skills on a dime in order to get the job done remotely, collaborate over a distance, focus independently without a manager's watchful eye, remain accountable, and a whole host of other things that make the world go round in business. Those skills, mainly dealing with remote collaboration technologies and work habits, and support of at-home workers will be must-haves going forward.

It's also affecting the education sector. As colleges and universities struggle with implementing a mix of classroom learning and online education during the ongoing pandemic, parents and students alike are rethinking the practicality of paying for four-year degrees when the campus experience is eliminated or severely cut back. Student debt is a crisis all on its own. Why should young people take on that mountain of debt if they can get the skills they need through a combination of community college for the basics and targeted online skills courses geared toward specific jobs and industries?

Employers will find themselves hiring a new generation of future job seekers who may not have the traditional requirements employers use as benchmarks, including four-year degrees. It means a necessary shift to skills-based hiring, because those are the credentials job seekers will be putting forth.

It also means changes for current employees, who need to upskill not only to meet the new demands of this new world order, but also to compete with the generation who will soon come into the workplace with advanced skills earned through online courses, verified by digital credentials. Current employees will need to do the same in order to keep up.

The COVID-19 epidemic has all but assured that skills will be the currency by which people get and keep their jobs.

At Credly, we're passionate about helping people get the skills they need via digital credentials. Fill out the form below and we'll show you how. 

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By Patricia Diaz