Supporting Canadian Skills-to-Employment

    The Essential Elements for a Successful Upskilling Program

    The Essential Elements for a Successful Upskilling Program

    Upskilling, the process of teaching employees new skills or enhancing their existing ones, has become a critical strategy for organizations navigating the rapidly changing business landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this need, forcing companies to rethink their business models and the skills their employees need to execute them. This article explores the essential elements for a successful upskilling program, backed by relevant market data and solutions, and includes insights from the Skills Council of Canada (SCC).

    The Urgency of Upskilling

    The McKinsey Global Institute estimated in 2017 that as many as 375 million workers—or 14 percent of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 due to automation and artificial intelligence. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this prediction even more urgent. Companies must now learn how to match their workers to new roles and activities, requiring a significant focus on reskilling and upskilling.

    The Essential Elements

    1. Identify Critical Skills: Companies must quickly identify the skills their recovery business model depends on. This involves identifying crucial value drivers and employee groups, and understanding how their roles will change as a result of shifts in value.
    2. Build Employee Skills: Start upskilling the critical workforce pools that will drive a disproportionate amount of value in your adjusted business model. Focus your investments on four kinds of skills: digital, higher cognitive, social and emotional, and adaptability and resilience.
    3. Launch Tailored Learning Journeys: As companies prepare to reimagine and ramp up their business models, they need to go deeper on strategic workforce planning. This involves creating tailored learning journeys for employees in critical roles, helping them build the skills needed to meet their specific objectives.
    4. Start Now, Test Rapidly, and Iterate: Simply getting started on reskilling programs makes organizations better prepared for potential future role disruption.
    5. Act Like a Small Company: Smaller organizations often have more success with reskilling programs because they can make bold moves more quickly and are better at prioritizing the skill gaps they need to address.
    6. Protect Learning Budgets: Companies should not cut their employee-training budgets. The current crisis will require a larger skill shift than the 2008 financial crisis did.

    The Role of SCC

    The Skills Council of Canada (SCC) plays a crucial role in this upskilling landscape. As an organization dedicated to supporting Canadians in accessing skill-development resources, SCC provides a robust Skills Management System (SMS) that manages all SCC resources, users, administration, and instructors. This system is instrumental in helping organizations identify the skills they need, build employee skills, and launch tailored learning journeys.


    Upskilling is not just a response to the current crisis; it's a long-term strategy that will help organizations become more resilient and adaptable in the face of future disruptions. By focusing on the essential elements of a successful upskilling program, companies can ensure they are well-equipped to navigate the changing business landscape.

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