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The COVID-19 pandemic held a monumental impact on the lives of Australians from all walks of life.
Businesses were forced to close their doors indefinitely, prompting some business owners to move their operations to digital channels and secure themselves digital alternatives to their traditionally in-person customer and client interactions.
In doing so, many older Australians learnt the values of digital technologies in real-world contexts for the first time in their professional lives.
In a similar fashion, even younger Australians have been using their many months in lockdown to further themselves.
Student enrolment numbers for online courses in Australia have climbed higher than ever before, as many tertiary level students sought alternative learning opportunities that would allow them to gain qualifications and effectively make the most of their time in lockdown.
In the present day, with lockdowns either lifting or having been lifted in all of Australia's major city centres and businesses opening their doors to the public once more, many working Australians who faced or experienced redundancy, have been setting their sights on upskilling opportunities.
What is upskilling?
In a nutshell, upskilling is the act of learning skills that are additional to your existing professional skill sets.
Generally speaking, professionals who invest in personal development initiatives like upskilling opportunities, are able to gain a competitive advantage over other professionals working in their industry, as they're able to provide their future prospective employers with more 'bang for their buck'.
For instance, an administrative assistant who's able to perform bookkeeping tasks is more likely to be hired over a candidate who doesn't possess these other valuable skills.
Candidates with an assortment of skill sets may also allow organisations themselves to offer additional products or services to their wider customer base too.
A good example here is an electrical company hiring an electrician with a background in industrial electrical maintenance in order to start offering commercial electrical services to their wider servicing area.
In this regard, upskilling isn't just a valuable investment to individuals looking to future-proof their own careers, but also to businesses, as they will undoubtedly always benefit from having a diverse and highly skilled workforce.
As a result, it's common for businesses themselves to come to their employees with upskilling opportunities, and potentially even foot the bill for department-wide upskilling workshops and seminars.
How to plan your upskill learning pathway
More often than not, people actually seek out opportunities for upskilling whilst they're still in a full-time or part-time professional role.
If you're considering investing in your own upskilling learning pathway but are currently employed in a full-time or part-time job role, it's more than natural to experience feelings of being overwhelmed.
Learning can be a strenuous process, even if the subject matter of your course materials is of great interest to you.
There are flexible online courses specifically designed for professionals who are working full-time.
Alongside this, it's common for many tertiary level institutions to offer standard 12-week courses on a full-time or part-time basis themselves, allowing working students to complete their coursework at their own pace and in accordance with their other professional and personal commitments.
The best method for planning your upskill learning experience is simply to communicate with both your employer and your learning institution in order to find a balance between your workloads that works best for you.
Remember that it's in your employer's best interests to support your personal and professional development here, so don't hesitate to ask for extra support if you feel you may need it.
Team upskilling for organisations
As stated earlier, another valuable upskilling opportunity can be found in the form of team upskilling workshops and seminars.
Of course, team upskilling usually looks quite different to personal upskilling pathways.
Whilst one tends to be undertaken over multiple weeks and requires a lengthier personal time commitment outside of working hours, the other may take place over just one working day and be a highly collaborative learning experience that you can share with your colleagues.
If you're unable to find a course that suits your learning style or accommodates your need for flexibility, you may decide to research team upskilling opportunities instead so that you can pitch departmental development courses or even wider organisational training days to your employer.
These kinds of one-off courses will still allow you to gain a greater understanding in a field of study that piques your interest, as well as introducing that field to your fellow colleagues, and potentially highlighting the growing need for those skills in your wider organisation.
If you're an employer who is already considering team upskilling opportunities to keep their workforce eager to learn and grow on their own, it's best to look for upskilling opportunities that are relevant to your industry, and may help your workforce build off of foundational skills that they may already have.
For instance, many employers working in digital and tech sectors across the globe have been investing in coding upskill materials and workshops.
As we delve deeper and deeper in this digital age, computer development continues to prove itself to be one of the most popular areas of study amongst upskillers across the globe.
Upskilling in a post-lockdown economy
So where does upskilling fit in with Australia's plans for rebuilding post-COVID?
Upskilling is actually integral to the regeneration of Australian industry, as small to medium sized enterprises across the country seek ways to keep themselves dynamic, adaptable, and thus well-protected against the prospect of future lockdowns as well as other periods of economic uncertainty as they appear on the horizon.
Similarly, Australian professionals have continued to seek upskilling opportunities to keep their own career prospects nice and varied, and to ensure that they present themselves as strong and multifaceted candidates with every single job opportunity that may come their way.
Upskilling naturally walks hand in hand with the digitalisation of global industry, and so it's essential that all working professionals continue to prioritise their own upskilling when it comes to digital technologies and maintaining their proficiency with rapidly evolving professional technological resources like business software.
When you consider how much we've changed over the last two years alone, and how much is yet to come, it's clear to see that upskilling is no longer optional, but a necessity for both established and emerging professionals alike.