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Retraining Yourself for the Future of Work

The skills gap between the past and future of work is growing wider, but online courses can help retrain and upskill job seekers.

By Julie Pitta | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor

6 Min Read | October 28, 2020 in Money



Digital skills continue to be in more demand, and pay better, than traditional manual jobs.

Online courses can help job seekers add skills or train for new occupations.

Research shows there is a real, and growing, skills gap in the global workforce. A study of global manufacturing, for example, found that as many as 2.4 million jobs would remain unfilled by 2028 due to a shortage of qualified workers – and that inability to hire would lead to an estimated $2.5 trillion in lost revenue.1 But if you’re caught in that gap, take heart: There’s also a growing number of educational institutions and businesses offering to train or retrain you for the future of work.


What Is the Skills Gap?

Experts say the skills gap is being created by disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence and automation that have redefined the workplace, eliminating some jobs and creating others that require new skill sets. Even slow-to-change sectors of the economy are being transformed, leaving employers often struggling to find workers trained for the new reality of digital technologies. 


Management experts like Joseph B. Fuller, a professor at the Harvard Business School, have urged business leaders to offer more skills development on their own.2 To the same end, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched its Talent Pipeline Initiative, which promises to move “employers into the driver’s seat” by connecting them with educational institutions to create curriculum tailored to immediate workplace needs.3 More than 2,000 employers have signed on with the initiative. 


Meanwhile, savvy job seekers seem to be aware of this skills gap – and the need to stay current: Registration for online courses are at an all-time high. Downloads of courses offering credit toward certificates in accounting, project management, and information technology jumped by 600% between February and June of 2020 at one popular professional networking site.4


Preparing for the Future of Work Can Increase Your Income

Moving into a digital career can translate into a several-fold increase in pay, according to data from a workplace review site. It reports, for example, that an entry-level software developer makes, on average, roughly $75,000 a year, while a retail salesperson brings in about $29,000 a year.5


Even if you’re already in a highly skilled job, adding new skills may boost your salary higher. One report shows that an industrial engineer who makes about $76,000 a year, on average, could enhance that salary as much as 20% by adding a skill like Python, which is a high-level programming language for developing graphical user interfaces.


Educational Resources to Help You Close a Skills Gap

A range of educational resources are available for job seekers who want to add skills or train for new careers. Among them are:

  • Community colleges: A traditional choice for job training, these schools have plumped their course catalogues with one- and two-year mini-degrees and professional certification programs specifically aimed at closing skills gaps. And they’re usually inexpensive or free: For example, one California city college has eliminated student fees.6
  • Online learning platforms: There are a variety of online platforms that offer their own classes or courses from universities like Stanford and Harvard, and many offerings are free. Another organization offers online training in fields like software development, tech support, and advanced manufacturing designed for job seekers without bachelor's degrees; you pay only when you’ve landed a job making at least $50,000 year.7
  • Extension programs: Colleges and universities offer online and in-person classes, and certification programs for working professionals. They typically cost several hundred dollars per course. In-person classes are generally offered on nights and weekends.


Businesses May Help You Retrain

Business leaders are heeding the call to develop a pipeline of skilled workers, and many are investing in job training not only for their employees but for job seekers in the communities in which they operate. 


In June 2020, one major software company announced it would offer free online classes and job-seeking help to 25 million workers by the end of the year.8 It created curriculum for 10 jobs that are in demand and don’t require a college diploma. Among them are software developer, IT administrator, and digital marketer. 


Similarly, a large bank announced it will spend $1 billion on economic opportunity initiatives during the next four years, including job training. A U.S.-based global retailer has donated $6 million to Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit organization focused on workforce development. 


Harvard’s Fuller believes these programs are but a first step in the right direction. His research paper, Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America’s Middle Skills, suggests that businesses must apply the type of rigor to developing a skilled workforce that they have traditionally applied to sourcing factories. “They must radically rethink their businesses’ roles in nurturing talent,” according to the paper.9


The Takeaway

Adding digital skills to your toolbox – or sharpening the ones you have – can help you prepare for the new future of work. Not only that, but those skills have the potential to increase your earning power. A range of educational options are available for workers seeking to close skills gaps, as well as those looking for new careers. Many of the classes are available online. And, employers are ready to take on the skills gap, increasing the investment they make in their own workers and developing outside talent through job-training programs.

Julie Pitta

Julie Pitta is a former senior editor for Forbes Magazine. She has covered the technology industry for more than 30 years.


All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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