‘Upskilling’ and ‘Reskilling’ Means Adult Education is Needed Now More Than Ever

Posted on October 08, 2019
‘Upskilling’ and ‘Reskilling’ Means Adult Education is Needed Now More Than Ever

Adult education in the workplace is essential today and the need for it will only increase as automated technologies take over a multitude of jobs in every sector of business.

Skill requirements in the workplace are in constant flux. Even more automation, enhanced by Artificial Intelligence technology, is on the horizon. New jobs are being created, too, but the future is unstable for many workers, who must be prepared for life-long learning and continuous adjustment in order to maintain their employability.

Companies already see their responsibilities expanding with the need to provide training to their employees, rather than simply seeking to replace them. As a case in point, Amazon announced this year a $700-million dollar retraining program for a third of its workforce. Inevitably, all companies, no matter how large or small, will be faced with the problem of workers’ expiring skill sets as job demands rapidly change.

The words “reskilling” and “upskilling” have entered the lexicon. “Upskilling” is about learning new skills so a worker can continue doing his or her job because the requirements have changed. “Reskilling” is teaching new skills so a worker can do a different job. These terms can also refer to the act of teaching workers, as in an instructor who is “upskilling” a group of workers.

Who are the people looking to upskill and reskill? It’s not just tradespeople and technology workers. White-collar jobs are also feeling the turbulence and executives are seeking personal development in their strategy and leadership capabilities.

There has never been a more urgent need for adult education. The future of work will require cooperation and collaboration between employers, governmental agencies, and educators, as well as resilience and flexibility on the part of workers. Fulfilling and rewarding careers are still possible for those who can accept unpredictability and disruption as a given. Commensurately, the demand for some skills will not wane, such as the ability to educate others.


The topic of this article is derived from the curriculum for the Schulich ExecEd program Masters Certificate in Adult Training and Development (Starts Jan. 29, 2020).

The Masters Certificate in Adult Training and Development (MCATD) is designed to provide both leading-edge research and practical experience in teaching and training adults in the workplace.