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Upskilling During An Economic Downturn

Champlain College Online

Technology has revolutionized many industries in the past few decades, and global events, such as 2020’s health crisis, will continue to change how we do business — and how we reshape and redefine individual roles within evolving organizations. Keeping up with current best practices in your industry has always been important, but reskilling and upskilling during an economic downturn can be incredibly valuable.


The Importance of Upskilling: Career Transition & Advancement

The COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a catalyst for many current economic conditions; however, the increasing need to upskill during a shift in workplace culture isn’t entirely new. In 2016, Bloomberg CityLab reported the trend has persisted since the 2008 recession.

“It’s a kind of surge of rising employer expectations: a desire for higher education, more experience, and ever-sharper thinking,” wrote Laura Bliss. She also cited a 2015 National Bureau of Economics report that found “recession-proof restructuring” has made it 12 times more likely to see employment ads that require more education, experience, or cognitive skills than those in pre-recession times. 

Champlain College Online Assistant Vice President of Enrollment Management Gabriel Clevenger said, "[Champlain's] truED relationships with employers offer unique, real-time, insights into upskilling needs, learning and development gaps, and challenges resulting from the pandemic. These conversations have highlighted that while organizations recognize the increasing importance of upskilling, reskilling, and educating their workforce, they are also increasingly limited in their ability to address those issues with internal solutions. Strained resources, L&D budget cuts and prioritization directed at core business initiatives have left talent and learning leaders seeking external solutions to these issues."

The bottom line is that many industries and business sectors are finding significant skill gaps among their current employees and the workforce at large. 

Workplace Upskilling

As the economic landscape changes, it’s critical to any organization’s survival that its employees skills and qualifications meet the industry’s needs. 

Digital upskilling is one example: As innovation forces companies to rethink their business models, management might need to prepare its current staff for a transition to new internal systems and processes. Reskilling and upskilling could also involve cross-training employees to build a more well-rounded team, and, in general, continually providing learning and development opportunities. 

A final example of upskilling organizationally is hiring more strategically from the get-go, ensuring position descriptions and requirements align with the company’s true needs. This illustrates why it’s also important for individuals to think about their own professional development. 

Independent Upskilling

Aside from organizational-level training and development, employees can also expand their education and experience on their own. When you invest in reskilling or upskilling, you can improve in your present position and also become more valuable to your current employer. Perhaps most important during an economic downturn, upskilling can also give you an edge on other applicants should you need to make a career transition. Gaining both new technical and soft skills can also help in future entrepreneurial endeavors. 

In a time of uncertainty, then, it’s never been more important to consider if upskilling is right for you. 


How to Upskill: Training and Development Options

Upskilling can come in many forms, from additional on-the-job training to attending college for the first time or returning to school for an additional degree or certificate. How you choose to upskill will largely depend on your goals. Maybe you’d like to stay in your current position or field, and just want to advance and broaden your skills, or maybe you are looking to go in a complete new direction. 

Around the United States, many city- or county-level agencies offer workforce development opportunities. Educational institutions often participate in or partner with employer-supported training programs, such as Champlain’s truED Alliance

Organizations like UpSkill America are national, employer-led movements to promote advancing today’s workforce to meet today’s needs. With the help of these groups or on your own, you are sure to find options local and convenient to you. 

Upskill Online With an Undergraduate Certificate

A career-focused online certificate program could be an ideal way to upskill or even reskill. Designed with busy adults in mind, online certificates offer the advantage of a shorter time investment, while giving you specific, job-ready skills — and an educational credential — that can help you transition to a new field.  

Even if you already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, earning a certificate in a related area is an ideal way to grow your knowledge and freshen up your skills. For example, if you’ve been in the Information Technology (IT) field for a long time, an undergraduate certificate in emerging areas like data science or blockchain technology, which could open up opportunities for lateral moves or supervisory roles in new IT divisions or initiatives in your current company. 

Upskill Online for Career Advancement with a Graduate Certificate

If you’re seeking career advancement in a competitive field, adding an additional credential to your resume could help set you apart. Graduate certificates,, offer a short-term way to build onto your existing expertise. For example, someone who has an MBA and already works in management in one sector might be drawn to the rapidly-growing healthcare industry. Returning for a graduate certificate in healthcare administration allows that person to gain essential knowledge of the healthcare system from a business, finance, legal, and information technology perspective. 

Other Ways to Upskill

Upskilling online or in-person could also involve:

  • Seeking out corporate training programs within your organization
  • Earning industry certifications (which may or may not require a specific degree)
  • Earning official certifications offered by companies (ex: Microsoft, Google, etc.)
  • Attending industry conferences and workshops
  • Taking individual online classes through learning platforms like Coursera

If you’re ready to upskill, learn more about our online certificate and degree options here or contact us today. 

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