What is Upskilling? – Southern New Hampshire University

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A professional upskilling at her desk, using a computer.
Upskilling is the process of developing new skills to advance your career. This can apply to virtually any career field — nursing, marketing, business, teaching and more. If you’re looking for a new job or to change careers, or you want to advance in your current field, upskilling can help get you there.
Adding to your skill set by growing in your field — or exploring a new one — can help you do your current job better, can lead to personal satisfaction with your career path and can help you stand out to hiring managers and become eligible for leadership roles and promotions.
It’s important to prioritize your professional development, especially in a challenging job market. Layoffs, hiring freezes and high turnover can make staying competitive in your field more important than ever. The more you upskill, “the better prepared you’ll be to master emerging technologies and advance your career,” said Tenille Jones, director of outreach at Kenzie Academy from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
Upskilling has many benefits, both personally and professionally. Some of them are:
Upskilling benefits organizations as much as employees due to its nature of creating “cross-functional employees,” Jones said. It’s cost-effective for businesses to support upskilling of their team members and “creates loyalty among employees,” she said.
Tenille Jones with the text Tenille JonesThere are many ways to learn new skills that will directly or indirectly benefit your career. Perhaps you have a liberal arts background and want to diversify your skill set by learning STEM-related skills, such as a programming language. Or maybe you already work in technology and need to learn a new programming language, such as Python, to help meet the demand for coders who know how to use it. Or, maybe you see a lot of growth in artificial intelligence, “so you decide to upskill your existing career as a software engineer by enrolling in a course on machine learning,” Jones said.
Once you have identified which skills you need to develop, there are a variety of ways to go about obtaining them. Some of those opportunities involve formal education, such as a degree program or certification. Some may involve short-term educational opportunities, such as bootcamp-style learning or competency-based education. And there may be ways to develop your skill set within your existing company already.
Some examples of upskilling are:
Upskilling is when you develop new skills or a higher degree of competency in your current role, “while reskilling is when you learn new skills for a new career or position,” said Erb.
If a nurse earns a master’s degree in nursing, they are upskilling, whereas if that nurse wants to change careers and become a mental health counselor or a teacher, they would have to pursue licensure in their new field, which may include additional coursework or an additional degree. That is reskilling.
If you are interested in learning new skills to advance or change your career, there are multiple ways to go about it. For Jones, “bootcamp-style is the way to go.” You focus on learning the necessary skills to enhance your existing knowledge and experience in a short period of time, compared to traditional education. This may include taking individual classes, earning a certification or earning micro-credentials in your field.
Jessica Erb and the text Jessica ErbErb recommends reviewing job descriptions to identify trends in the skills needed to advance jobs in your field. For example, suppose you reviewed job descriptions for data or business analyst roles. You might notice a requirement for skills in SQL, Tableau and Python, along with the ability to communicate effectively or solve complex problems.
“Once you have identified the necessary skills, reach out to people in these roles, especially at your current company, to learn more about how these skills may apply to the type of roles that interest you,” she said.
Perhaps you’re a manager and wondering how to help your employees advance their skills. Good for you, because investing in your team not only helps motivate and inspire your staff, it benefits your business as well. Upskilling and reskilling efforts are effective ways to show your commitment to your workforce.
“It goes without saying that by providing these options to reskill and upskill and encouraging your team to take advantage of them, you’ll better position your company for success moving forward,” said Jones.
Wondering where to begin? Erb has the answer: “First, management should assess its current workforce skills, identify its future needs, and use this to create a strategy for upskilling or reskilling.”
Direct managers and human resources managers should work together to explore training and development opportunities. This could involve “adding incentives for employees to complete training or incorporate incentives into performance evaluations,” she said.
Training is always best when embedded into the work at hand and included in the team’s meetings or goals, according to Erb. “Training should never be a one-and-done type of delivery,” she said.
Traditionally, professionals developed new skills by going back to school. Depending on your goals, this can be a great option. Many excellent schools offer online options so you can even complete a degree program at your own pace. Be sure to check with your employer to see if they offer any financial help to cover some of the costs. Many employers will pay for some or all of the tuition if the degree directly applies to your job.
Explore alternate online educational options as well. With the introduction of “bootcamp-style” education, professionals can now take their careers to new heights for a fraction of the time and cost, according to Jones. This style of education often involves project-based instruction that offers real-world experience that can be very valuable to employers.
Developing new skills is all about your level of interest and determination. Like most things in life, you will get out of your upskilling efforts what you put into it. To properly upskill, be systematic in your research and formulate a plan. “Identify market demand for the skills you’re considering and align them to your personal career goals,” Jones said.
In addition to being able to learn from your desk at your office or from the comfort of your own home, online education can offer a variety of majors, certificates, bootcamp-style courses and more that are “continuously reevaluated based on industry changes,” said Erb. There is often also professional support to help you maximize your time and learning potential, such as:
In whatever field you’re in, by aligning your upskilling opportunities with your professional goals, you will ensure that your existing set of skills will “truly be enriched, and you’ll see your new knowledge through into your career advancement,” Jones said. Through upskilling or reskilling, you will be ready not just to weather any changes in the job market but truly thrive in your career.
Education can change your life. Find the SNHU online program that can best help you meet your goals.
Marie Morganelli, Ph.D. is a freelance content writer and editor.
SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.
Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.


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