The Future of Work and the Need for Upskilling

For Killer Startups

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change Fearless Soul ft. Eddie Pinero

Our post-pandemic world has thrust upon us changes that we were neither prepared for nor readily willing to undertake. Amid job losses, displacement, and financial destabilization, we found ourselves reevaluating our relationships, basic needs, career paths, even our wardrobes. We realized we needed to lay down a new framework for an uncertain future. A shift is apparent in how we approach life in general, but that shift is most significant when it comes to work and career choices. Whether someone rates job satisfaction above financial security or varied experience above long-term stability, we all have an instinct that we are all going to need to reinvent ourselves and look at our work lives differently. But what is that going to look like?

The future of work and what it means for jobs, skills, and wages

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Stephen Hawking

Global research company McKinsey has been devoting a lot of its resources to this question. Recently, they estimated that because of automation alone, between 400 million and 800 million people around the world will need to find new jobs by 2030. They also estimate that between 75 million and 375 million will need to switch occupations or learn new skills to get another job. 

This burden will not be evenly spread around the world, however: “For advanced economies, the share of the workforce that may need to learn new skills and find work in new occupations is much higher: up to one-third of the 2030 workforce in the United States and Germany, and nearly half in Japan.” In other words, people living in advanced economies are more likely to need to upskill or change occupations altogether, in less than a decade’s time.

In a web series for McKinsey, academics and experts shared their views on the future of work, and there was a significant consensus. The working model of coming into an office, working eight hours for one company, and getting paid a static wage was beneficial at the end of the Industrial Age. Now that we have moved firmly into the Digital Era, that model doesn’t make sense. Instead, we will see more freelancers and independent contractors consider public relations recruitment. They will have varied jobs that rely on several different skills, and they will work for several different clients or companies at once. Tools including augmented reality, virtual conferencing whiteboards, and the like will enable these people to work where they want, so they can live in areas that make more sense for their personal lives. Moreover, they may not need to work eight hours a day, five days a week anymore. 

It does mean that workers will need to have a wide portfolio of skills, both in the work they can do and the digital tools they can use. That is, this new working model reinforces the idea that workers will have to upskill to keep up with the working world.

The case for upskilling through virtual learning and adult online education

“Sometimes the one thing you need for growth is the one thing you are afraid to do.” Shannon L. Alder

Before the pandemic, adult online education and virtual learning was coming into its own. Most accredited and reputable institutions had options available for students who could not actually come onto the campus to learn. Online learning was becoming a viable option for students, especially those that were established in their careers and needed to have flexibility in their learning schedule. 

Then the pandemic hit, and suddenly every student had to navigate online learning. Every university had to massively up their online game to handle the demand, and it is working well. There is evidence that virtual learning allows students to retain 25-60% more information, and that it requires 40-60% less time for students to learn, compared to traditional classroom-based teaching. After all, each student can skip over the bits they get quickly and take their time with the content that challenges them, instead of everyone moving at the slowest pace.

Of course, not everything is right for every person, and there are real pros and cons to online learning.

The PROS and CONS of online learning


  • Social distancing in the event of a global pandemic
  • Reductions in a variety of expenses (travel, books, printing)
  • Convenience; no restrictions around time and location
  • Less expensive: tuition fees reflect the lack of a physical campus
  • Students are more focused in an online learning environment, therefore more is achieved in less time
  • Student-centered; students may actively engage only in contributions that are relevant to their needs
  • Digital learning platforms enable the easy sharing of information and the ability to collaborate
  • Learning is enhanced by online technologies
  • A degree of anonymity and individuality can suit a number of students better than the traditional face-to-face educational setup and can boost performance and promote improved results
  • Implementing online technologies may result in increased student self-confidence
  • Learning pace is determined by the student 
  • Studies can be undertaken alongside a full-time job or side hustle


  • Access to reliable technology/devices and sufficient bandwidth is required
  • Lack of interpersonal socialization 
  • Insufficient knowledge of time management, presentation, word-processing, collaboration, and other tools and technologies will be a hindrance to learning
  • Motivation and the ability to organize workload and learn independently are required


“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

The world of work is undergoing seismic changes as fundamental as the changes brought in by the Industrial Revolution. Just as then, no one can keep the world from turning and changing, and those who don’t adapt are going to get left behind.

Whether a new student decides to pursue a new degree or just pick up some new skills ad hoc, the benefits of keeping their skills up to date remain the same. Online learning provides flexibility and an individualized approach that can make earning new qualifications feel less intimidating and more enjoyable. Considering upskilling is going to be an absolute necessity for many of us, it makes sense to choose the most personalized learning options. That way, we can prepare for the future of work, without having to sacrifice the lives we’ve already built.

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