At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies pivoted to supporting a remote workforce to continue operating during workplace disruption. The swiftness of this workforce transformation is an indication of how fast things can happen when you're under pressure, according to Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
"What took us, in terms of transformations, sometimes years, can now be achieved in months; or what took us months, can now be achieved in days," Schwab told Teresa Carlson, vice president of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Worldwide Public Sector Dec. 10 at re:Invent 2020, a three-week virtual conference. But a company that truly seeks transformation will need to embrace reinvention and prioritize workforce training needs, Schwab said. In the future, a company's laser focus on financial capital may be eclipsed by a focus on talent; "Talent is a precious resource," Schwab said. "Capital is always available," he added, but good talent is unique.
Upskilling needed for in-demand jobs
By 2025, AWS plans to boost the technical skills of 29 million people in more than 200 countries and territories through free cloud computing skills training, Carlson announced during the event. The training will be conducted through existing AWS-designed programs and new courses to accommodate learning goals and schedules, she said. The initiative builds on a commitment made in 2019 to invest $700 million to train 100,000 Amazon employees.
WEF and AWS have worked together "to make sure we're looking for new ways to train and certify individuals around the world with expanded job skills," Carlson said. AWS also plans to expand its re/Start program to assist individuals from underrepresented communities transition into tech jobs and continue its investment in free training to assist individuals in earning AWS Certification, Carlson said in a blog post.
Amid the pandemic, many people were left behind because of technology deficiencies, Schwab said. "We need to engage companies, like yours, into a global skills revolution," he told Carlson. Four technical positions — data analysts/scientists, artificial intelligence specialists, big data specialists and digital marketing and strategy specialists — will be in demand in the future, Schwab said. A pivotal undertaking for companies will be upskilling employees for these jobs.
"When we look at this educational revolution, I think it's characterized by the digitalization of education" combined with the use of artificial intelligence, he said.
Along with the demand for technical jobs, hybrid jobs — a blend of technical and soft skills in the workplace — are also on the horizon, according to experts. And hybrid jobs are evolving into "super jobs" that require skill sets that cross multiple domains. However, millions of workers in the U.S. have limited or no digital skills, according to the National Skills Coalition (NSC), and digital skills gaps also exist for employees in essential industries, the organization said in a report. NSC is calling on President-elect Joe Biden and Congress to focus on upskilling or reskilling workers for new jobs and re-employment assistance; one proposed agenda places an emphasis on an inclusive economic recovery.
But upskilling workers should also be a priority for private organizations, not just the government, Schwab said during the fireside chat; "It's a joint task of government and business," he said. It should be a company's prerogative to provide learning opportunities inside and outside of the workplace — a hybrid approach, he said. "In an ideal world, everybody should be certified regularly on upskilling," Schwab said.
During the pandemic and beyond, companies need to be resilient, he said; "Use the opportunity to reflect, reset and reinvent."