The Future of Work: Meeting the High Demand for Upskilling and Training

Pam Sornson, JD

COVID-19 has caused innumerable headaches, forcing millions of workers into unemployment and shutting the doors of thousands of companies. However, it’s also driven the development of new technologies and workforce strategies as technological adaptations facilitate the ‘work from home’ necessity.

Industry leaders are now talking about how the pandemic has already changed the forecast for the future of work. Once that menace is contained, and with the right tools and partnerships in place, most organizations should be able to pick up (most of) the pieces of their enterprise and resume operations, although they’ll need a better trained, upskilled staff.


Skills Gaps Widen During COVID-19 Pandemic

Even before the pandemic, global leaders were eying the necessity of upskilling their workforce. In 2019, the International Labor Organization Global Commission on the Future of Work declared that then-current skillsets would not be sufficient to fill the roles and jobs of the future. Worse, the group suggested that even newly acquired 2020 skills may become obsolete, considering the speed at which the global community is transforming.

Instead, the Commission called on the world’s governments, employers, and workers to embrace and engage in ‘life-long learning strategies,’ recognizing that almost every job will require workers to receive ongoing education to maintain competency. Amazon elected to invest $700 million in retraining support for up to 100,000 workers, and PwC (formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers) pledged $3 billion for the purpose.

Note, too, that these decisions occurred pre-COVID when there weren’t millions out of work. During and after the pandemic, thousands of displaced workers will also be looking for training, upskilling, and new skills acquisitioning. Thousands of employers will need workers who are prepared and able to take on the post-pandemic challenges. The COVID-19 crisis appears to have accelerated that push for enhanced training opportunities.


Skills Gaps Span Industries and Sectors

The demand for upskilling options is higher in some industries than in others, based on the nature of the work. Especially these days, technology is changing how many industries operate, and workers are more than just laborers. Often, their knowledge of the product or service they’re generating is dependent on their equal comprehension of the technologies they use during production.

The manufacturing sector provides a good example. Early this year (pre-pandemic), manufacturing companies had already budgeted $26 billion to cover upskilling and retraining costs so that both existing and new hires had the abilities needed to do the work. According to a study done by the Manufacturing Institute, 70% of manufacturers were expanding existing or creating new training systems. Three-quarters (75%) of respondents reported that their upskilling efforts improved employee morale, improved production values, and even aided in promotion initiatives.

Further, in a review of nine quarters reported by the National Association of Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, 80% of manufacturers admitted to struggling to find the workers they needed to fill existing openings. That challenge will worsen, too, if data provided by Deloitte is any indication. Between worker retirements and natural industry growth, the manufacturing sector should add as many as 4.6 million jobs between 2018 and 2028. However, if the persistent skills shortage remains, only 2.2 million of those will be filled.

The impact on the manufacturing industry would be significant:

Without the workers to do the job, production levels will decline and

up to $454 billion in potential revenues would disappear.

That $454 billion represents as much as 17% of America’s forecasted GDP for 2028.

Other industries will have different numbers than the manufacturing sector, but the point is the same: Too many companies need workers with better skills, and not enough workers have the training right now to fill those positions.


Pasadena City College: Building Tomorrow’s Talent Pipeline

The labor demand situation is creating a challenge for all sectors. After the pandemic subsides (and it will subside), newly reopened businesses will have to reinvent themselves to reflect that post-pandemic ‘normal.’ And they’ll need a workforce trained with appropriate, post-pandemic skills to retake their share of the market. Unfortunately, not all organizations have several billion dollars available for workforce training investments, so how will they address and surmount this concern?

In the San Gabriel Valley, they should partner with Pasadena City College (PCC) to not only find current training opportunities for their organization but also to share their perspective of what they’ll need from new training opportunities in the future.

PCC’s Economic and Workforce Development Department (EWD) aims to connect and build the resources of the school, its students, and its industrial community toward a more robust economy. To accomplish this effort, PCC reaches out to numerous entities to collaborate with and to coordinate industry and workforce-related initiatives.

Our work is mandated by the State of California, which has tasked its community colleges with developing the well-trained human resource population envisioned in its “Strong Workforce Program.”  Not only do we regularly engage with our fellow community colleges, but we also engage regularly with government agencies and industry regulators so we can base decisions on the most current best practices and policies.

The PCC EWD leadership team actively participates with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation and the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership, providing unique PCC insights to local and regional policy and project developments.

We routinely invite local and regional businesses to partner with us by sitting on our advisory panels to provide their input into program and curricula development. And, when those businesses are looking for assistance training their own workforce, we can provide contract training designed and delivered precisely to meet their needs.

Also included in the EWD are departments dedicated to ensuring student success in career and job placements and to directly connect students to work-based learning opportunities to enhance their classroom activities.


The Robert G. Freeman Career Center (Freeman Center)

One of the pillars of the EWD is the Robert G. Freeman Career Center. The Freeman Center is the hub of our student’s career and job development activities.

This bustling enterprise provides career and job counseling, course and program guidance, informational resources, and more to help students find the work they want. From resume development to mock interviews to job fairs, PCC students looking to find work in their chosen fields can start and continue that search with the help of Career Center professionals.

The Freeman Center is also the home of our many Career Fairs. We invite our local and regional businesses to participate in these events, display their good work, share their insights with both faculty and students, and provide students with an overview of what working for the company might entail.

For those companies that need employable workers to fill open positions, the Freeman Center acts as a job-posting hub for PCC students. Jobs posted here are readily available to any PCC student who’s looking for employment.


Work-based Learning Opportunities

Another pillar of the EWD is the office of Work-based Learning (WBL) which coordinates the connections that facilitate our students’ work-based learning opportunities, including internships, apprenticeships, and more. These arrangements are win-win: the student gets exposure to hands-on learning, and the business receives a curious and engaged worker to fulfill company demands.

Internships are very beneficial, giving the student job-related experience and the employer a will and able laborer. Internships can be both paid or unpaid, and, in some cases, students are also eligible to receive course credits for their internship efforts.

In some cases, the work-based learning opportunity matures into a full-time position, assuring the boss that the newly minted employee has the exact right skills for the job.

Industry site visits are also beneficial for learners looking to experience the real world while still in school. Companies that open their doors to these events enjoy face-to-face engagement with potential hires and can help PCC students understand their operations’ nuances and subtlety.

Mentorships and job shadows also provide learners and business owners with an enjoyable and productive experience.



PCC’s EWD is Training Tomorrow’s Workforce

PCC is already training its students to fill the jobs that are available today. By engaging our local and regional business leaders in our program development process, the EWD department can use their immense library of expertise and experience to train students for tomorrow’s jobs, too. And according to the statistics, there are going to be a lot of new jobs available.


Want to learn more? Join our “Future of Work Virtual Conference,” Thursday, November 12 from 9 till 11 am. Our panel of industry experts will discuss how the working world is evolving for workers, employers, industries, and communities.




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