The Differences between Reskilling and Upskilling

June 14, 20193:00 pm
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“Your organisation is moved by the skills that you have. The evolution of individuals in a company ultimately translates to the evolution of a company.” – Matthew Sigelman  

As more and more machines are involved in the workforce and working side-by-side with human workers, skills in demand are also changing. A recent infographic by Bongo showed that in 2018, the workplace consists of 71 percent human and 29 percent machine. In the next four years, however, it is predicted that robots will take over 42 percent tasks in the workplace, while human will fill 58 percent from overall tasks. Owing to this, individuals need to engage in life-long learning if they want to not only employable but also seek to achieve fulfilling and rewarding careers. Life-long improvements will take them to maximise their employment opportunities. On the one hand, for companies, reskilling and upskilling strategies will be critical to find the talents needed and to contribute to socially responsible approaches to the future of work.  

See also: 4 Effective Problem-Solving Steps to Ramp Up Employee’s Problem-Solving Skills

What are reskilling and upskilling?

The terminology of reskilling and upskilling might be synonymous to each other but they imply a completely different meaning. The exact definitions of both according to Cambridge dictionary are:

Upskilling – the process of learning new skills or of teaching workers new skills

Reskilling – the process of learning new skills so you can do a different job, or of training people to do a different job.

From the definition above, we can say that reskilling focuses more on creating new skill so that employee or individual can do a different job. Typically, reskilling is a program that requires employees to be sent to a college or trade school to earn a degree or certification in a different field. After the completion of the degree, this employee will once again become employable.

While upskilling points out the same, it focuses more on improving worker’s skills so they can work within the same job. Unlike reskilling that requires to earn a completely new certification, upskilling will require an employee to enhance their value to his/her organisation by improving their current skill set.

If you are still confused about both terms, here is an illustration of upskilling and reskilling.

Upskilling: “Jane is an amazing social media marketer and is good with big data. Opportunely, the company she works at is in need of big data strategist. As Jane hears the news, she starts to upskill her big data knowledge in order to boost her value within the company. She, then, takes big data course to enhance her skill.”

Reskilling: “Anne works in company A. She is the best marketing manager and is savvy in the marketing field. However, the company always changes its terms and regulations to enhance their global competitiveness in the global market. Therefore, to stay competitive and employable, Anne needs to take a different course about tech and IT so she can stay competitive with other marketing or IT talents. Therefore, Anne takes a short course about IT and general technology to earn her own IT certification.”

Which one matters more, upskilling or reskilling?

It will depend on your current need and choice.

As you know that upskilling is more about improving your current skill set, it means you will be a professional in your current position. You can focus on one goal you have, which is to improve yourself in the chosen expertise. On the other hand, when you choose to reskill your ability, you will have more opportunity to make transitions between jobs. Your chance of employability could be greater as you earn certification to different skills. However, reskilling means your professionalism in one skill will be lower than if you take time to upskill your ability.  

Read also: Is an Employee’s Personality Really More Important Than Skills?