What is the Difference Between Upskilling and Reskilling?

Norwich Pro

July 28, 2021

In business, lifelong learning is essential for career advancement, professional growth, and keeping up with industry changes and trends. As noted by Forbes, the world moves faster than a decade ago, requiring businesses and their employees to adapt to change. Those who don’t invest in themselves fall behind, especially in the wake of new technology in the workplace.

Building on existing competencies and experience, individuals may upskill or reskill, depending on personal business goals. Those interested in growing within a chosen field may upskill to deepen knowledge or learn new competencies to remain adroit or become experts in their profession. Others who want to make a career pivot into a new industry or position will reskill or learn new competencies that build on transferrable skills.

Both approaches require training or attending courses such as certificate programs that offer credentials within a specific area. For example, Norwich Pro offers online certificate and microcertificate programs that provide active learning from industry experts in high-demand fields sought by different industries.

 

UpSkilling vs. Reskilling

McKinsey Global Institute estimates that as many as 375 million workers worldwide will need to change career paths or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. In their global survey on workforce needs, 87 percent of executives noted skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years. To address these trends, workers must gain new competencies, either by upskilling or reskilling. While these terms often are used interchangeability as they refer to adding new skills, they have different meanings:

  • Upskilling focuses on continuing education in enhancing performance and knowledge in a current profession or specific field. These skills also help to adapt to changing market conditions. Often, upskilling enhances an employee’s value by updating their skill set and positioning them for the future.
  • Reskilling adds new skills so a person can move into a different job within the company or another organization. It does not simply refresh existing skills. Reskilling may require completing several certificate programs – or even obtaining a degree – to become employable in a new area.

 

Reasons to Upskill or Reskill

Employees in a current position that want to move ahead in their department should consider upskilling. For example, John is a good accountant and wants to move into a senior position. To do so, he must be competent in more computer programs and understand to lead a team. By taking relevant computer and managerial classes, John upskills his current background to become a viable candidate for the position.

As many companies may provide the option for employees to work from home post-pandemic, managers may need to upskill their computer, organizational, and teambuilding competencies to mentor and lead staff in a new remote work environment. (Amazon stated in June 2021 that employees could work from home two days a week if their positions allow them.) The workforce, too, must learn new proficiencies as their jobs change in the wake of new digital adoption.

Some employees may want to move into a completely different role, especially as the job market opens in recent months. Mary, for example, wants to become a project manager in another department. She currently works in sales. While Mary has skills transferrable from a current role, she must reskill her background with a new degree or certification to qualify for the position. Even if she doesn’t get the job in her current company, she now possesses the credentials to apply to other companies for this role.

 

Benefits of Upskilling and Reskilling

Whether upskilling or reskilling, learning new competencies is an investment in a future career and advancement or holding onto one during times of uncertainty. Here are some other reasons to improve skills:

  • Fill skill gaps to increase the chances of promotion or keeping a job during a merger, acquisition, or company downsizing. (Upskill)
  • Stay on top of the newest skills and trends to master current roles and remain a valuable asset and leader to the company. (Upskill)
  • Gain a better understanding of a new career path. Individuals can test the waters of a new field by first taking a course or two. (Reskill)
  • Improve chances of getting hired in another department or company in a new role. (Reskill)
  • Retrain
  • Develop often overlooked soft skills such as communications, leadership, and management that complement hard (technical skills) in gaining management positions.
  • Show self-initiative and drive to improve performance and be ready to take advantage of new opportunities. (Upskill)

Many companies offer upskilling and reskilling opportunities through conferences, seminars, and certificate programs for employees to develop more engaged and productive work teams while preparing many for management positions. By 2025, Amazon plans to make a $700 million upskilling investment in its US employees. Other enterprises may reimburse tuition for courses relevant to current positions up to a certain amount as part of their benefits packages.

 

How to Upskill or Reskill

To remain successful in business, individuals must continue to enhance their knowledge, skills, and capabilities. At different times in a career or when entering into a new one, a person may choose to upskill or reskill. In addition to taking advantage of training opportunities within their company, individuals should select resources that match their educational needs and pursuits. Many higher educational institutions such as Norwich University offers online certificate programs that enable completion around busy schedules. Norwich Pro offers Skilling, Upskilling, and Reskilling microcertificates that add professional skills to advancing a career. These one-week, self-paced courses can hone current skills or add new capabilities in a new area to take the next step into another career field. Norwich Pro online microcertificate program topics include:

  • Developing Your Leadership Skills
  • Assessment and Measurement Tools
  • Leading and Managing in Difficult Situations
  • Corporate Compliance: Internal Controls
  • Working with Integrity – Organizational Communication as Disciplined Practice
  • And more

 

For information on Norwich Pro’s complete roster of certificate and microcertificate programs that reskill and upskill professionals to get ahead in careers or enter new ones, visit pro.norwich.edu.

Have questions? Contact Norwich at pro.norwich.edu/contact or by email at norwichpro@norwich.edu.

 

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