How Reskilling and Upskilling Can Bolster Economic Recovery and Workplace Success

To reinvigorate the economy and promote workforce success, many companies are turning toward reskilling and upskilling for in-demand positions.


Air Date: June 15, 2021

Moderator: Cheryl A. Oldham, Vice President for Education Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Featured Guests: Michael Fors, Executive Leader of Leadership, Learning and Organizational Capability, Boeing, Dr. Craig Schultz, Chief Product Officer, RapidAscent, Inc., John Rote, Chief Information Security Officer and Vice President of Corporate and Student Programs, RapidAscent, Inc., Lisa Gevelber, Vice President, Grow with Google, Google, Gabe Dalporto, Chief Executive Officer, Udacity

Amid the pandemic, many Americans have been displaced from their careers and need new skills to get back to work. At the same time, many companies are looking to fill in-demand positions, but they have not yet found candidates who currently possess the necessary qualifications.

One potential solution to both of these problems is upskilling and reskilling the American workforce. Here’s what leaders should know about transforming the skills training process.

Upskilling Employees Helps Companies Prepare for the Future

Many businesses are turning toward skills training to not only survive but to thrive in the face of adversity.

“The not-so-good companies won’t survive a crisis. The good ones might survive, but the best ones come out stronger,” said Michael Fors, Executive Leader of Leadership, Learning and Organizational Capability at Boeing. “And we’re looking to come out stronger.”

Fors’ team at Boeing has observed several recent trends affecting the labor industry, in addition to COVID-19 — from economic disparity to climate change to the fourth industrial revolution.

“What we’re really trying to do is get more laser-focused on upskilling,” Fors continued. “We needed partnerships to help us, people who can keep up on the latest technologies who have expertise [in these areas].”

Knowledge Alone Isn’t Enough; Skills-Based Training Can Fill the Gap

One of Boeing’s crucial partnerships is with RapidAscent, a startup that upskills individuals looking to enter the cybersecurity industry. The RapidAscent Academy does not require a college degree or previous training to get started and provides the qualifications needed for professionals to begin working in the field quickly.

“We go beyond certifications into skills-based operation against malware threats and best practices,” explained Dr. Craig Schultz, Chief Product Officer of RapidAscent. “We’re tracking how [much experience] someone has against a certain type of threat … [and] how well they’re doing.”

“It’s getting difficult for [Chief Information Security Officers] to find qualified candidates … which puts the company at additional risk,” added John Rote, RapidAscent’s Chief Information Security Officer and Vice President of Corporate and Student Programs. “That’s what we’re trying to resolve here.”

Training the Future and Existing Workforce for In-Demand Skills

Upskilling and reskilling can be especially valuable tools for upward mobility while also filling the need for the labor demands of the future.

“There are 80 million American workers who don’t have a [college] degree and who feel like great jobs have been out of reach for them,” said Lisa Gevelber, Vice President of Grow with Google. “[And] two-thirds of jobs in America require mid- and high-level digital skills.”

To combat this problem, Grow with Google has established a career certificate program to train people to join in-demand fields such as IT support, data analytics, user experience design, and project management. The program has seen explosive interest from not only individuals looking to create opportunities for themselves but from employers as well.

“We’re seeing a new trend, which is that a lot of companies are reaching out to rescale their existing employees,” Gevelber noted. “[These] companies realize that this is an inexpensive, incredibly high ROI way to offer retraining for their existing workforces.”

Implementing Upskilling as a Company-Wide Strategy to Fill Gaps

According to Gabe Dalporto, Chief Executive Officer of Udacity, $1.8 trillion will be spent this year on digital transformation — and $1 trillion will be wasted.

“We don’t have the talent to implement those transformations,” explained Dalporto. “The hardest-to-fill areas are things like AI, machine learning, data science, cybersecurity, cloud computing, autonomous systems, software development.”

As Dalporto noted, everybody is going after the same small set of employees in an “all-out war” for talent, so upskilling is an important strategy for companies that want to recruit the best.

“Don’t think of [upskilling] as an employee benefit … make this an initiative, make this a strategy and treat it programmatically,” he continued. “Build programs to specifically deliver the job skills you need to achieve those mission-critical objectives.”


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