Getting a first job, getting a new job, it’s all just not the same as it used to be, experts in training and human resources say. It’s not just that different skills are needed than in the past; conventional skills must be accompanied by entirely new types of skills, and this is why upskilling and reskilling are required for young and older workers.
Such is the conclusion that emerges from a webinar on Upskilling and Reskilling sponsored by the Careers Express job board ( https://careers.express/ ).
The Webinar featured George Boustras, professor of Risk Assessment at the European University in Nicosia, Eleni Markantoni, director of the Office of Student Affairs at the same university, and Elisabeth Kerstelian, certified trainer, who also manages content for the Career Express site.
What are these new skills for workers and first-time job seekers today?
“They must possess very strong digital skills, and they must be able to work autonomously,” comments Markantoni. “They must also possess emotional intelligence, meaning that they must have the ability to show empathy, and to be flexible and adaptable. None of today’s working patterns or work environments are stable. So adaptability and flexibility are vital tools.”
At a university, this kind of ‘soft skills’ cannot be taught, Markantoni continues.
In the universities they try very hard to bring life experiences to students working experiences. We offer multiple tools to do that, such as internship programs, boot camps, platforms, because we want to familiarise youth with the real working environment.”
Resilience is a key quality
For Boustras, resilience is a key quality. “As I tell my students, time and time again, it doesn’t matter how many doors you have to knock on. Some of you might have five interviews, or eight interviews, or even 20 interviews; eventually a door will open. So resilience is a must in these difficult times.”
Boustras also warns: “Young people will have to develop the ability to change jobs more often than we have in the past. The economy changes more rapidly today than it did 20 years ago. Workers must have a broad range of skills to be able to move from one type of job to another.”
Boustras gives the example of computer scientists. “I was under the impression three years ago that computer science was more or less out of fashion. Yet today, all of a sudden, everything that has to do with infrastructure and support is becoming extremely hot.
Markantoni points out that this is why upskilling is the answer for some people. “Those who work in sectors that have seen reduced activity like tourism, they will have to do some sort of upscaling and try to adapt to the new situation. There are certain areas of industry that are doing very well, much better than they used to do before: Logistics, for example, everything related to health, nursing, web design, mobile application design, these are skills that can be easily transferable if somebody is willing to to go the extra mile.”
Says Kesterlian: “What about middle-aged workers, between 35 to 65, how can they reskill? Now, there are different areas nowadays, for example, artificial intelligence is on the move. But if we’re talking about rescaling taking people from professions that no longer would be in existence, it would be difficult to recommend such fields. But there are other fields for which a middle-aged worker has transferable skills, and they should concentrate on these.
Then, Boustras says, surely the pandemic has made the capability of teleworking essential. “We will clearly have a hybrid environment in the future, with workers dividing their time from homeworking and days in the office. If I were an owner, I would be thinking now, why do I need to rent or to buy all this office space?”
This is particularly true, Boustras points out, because teleworking has made us all more productive.
“Productivity has rocketed sky high with teleworking. That means it is here to stay.”
Yet Boustras insists that, for young people, time in the office is important to learn the basics of the work environment.
“It is also important that you get not only the experience of working, but also the mentality of working. I think there is a certain mentality that comes with working, understanding how you can be useful, understanding how you can support the organisation and understanding how the organisation can support you back. And this is what you get from getting this first job and working in the office.”