Across academic, tech, manufacturing, and other sectors, calls for better STEM education and working-training resources have dominated the last decade. They aren’t likely to subside into the next decade as the STEM skills gap remains a pressing issue.
Rising pressure to compete with global innovations, labor shortages across many industries, and the need for more solutions in an increasingly technological society have only heightened demands for capable professionals.
This is why STEM education resources have become a priority, private companies and public organizations have partnered to create STEM initiatives, and professional development and inclusion efforts have taken many forms. More recently, reskilling and upskilling have gained a lot of attention as labor gap solutions.
What Is Upskilling?
Upskilling, meaning to teach an employee additional skills to better enable them in their current role, and reskilling, which enables an employee to transition into a new role, have both generated a lot of interest. Upskilling and reskilling processes can take many forms and they are especially relevant for industries that are confronting shrinking hiring pools and those that serve highly competitive markets.
STEM fields have been some of the hardest hit, with labor shortages and unfilled roles greatly affecting engineering, IT, accounting, software development and digital technology, manufacturing, telecommunications, and science education. In response, some companies have begun dedicating more resources to STEM internships to train new workers and professional development programs for current workers.
The specifics of these programs and how they’re implemented vary depending on the organization, but they do require focus and investment. Some companies will opt for a self-guided approach, letting their own department leaders determine the direction of employee learning based on pressing industry changes and challenges. To do this, experienced and qualified personnel need to be given support to engage in mentorship or peer-to-peer learning.
In a similar vein is the employment of a learning and development (L&D) service or specialist. Traditional L&D resources are all about developing and maintaining a professional environment that fosters growth for personnel. When applied to upskilling and reskilling, L&D can be focused on specific skills and capabilities that are in line with company goals.
This might involve bringing in experts to develop and deploy career-pathing and training programs. Organizations will also partner with universities, colleges, and other academic institutions so that employees can enroll in a customized curriculum. Similarly, tuition reimbursement for courses that are relevant to upskilling and reskilling goals have become an increasingly common offering to current and prospective employees.
How To Reskill And Upskill Independently
Reskilling and upskilling don’t have to be at the determination of an employer. Every day, people with all types of professional backgrounds are upskilling to increase their hire-ability and reskilling to break into new roles and careers. One of the most traditional methods is enrollment in higher education, vocational and professional training, and skill-building courses.
For some, choosing a skill-development path can be based on one’s own passions or interests, but more and more, workers are focused on skills that are in demand by employers.
Today, these are rooted in science, engineering, math, and technology. That doesn’t mean a STEM degree is a requirement to be a highly-desirable candidate, but proficiency with data management and analysis, computer systems, project management, programming languages, and training in specific technologies have become highly competitive.
Beyond STEM, honing professional skills in time management, collaboration, negotiation, analysis, design, and communication can have a big impact on potential employers.