Now is the time to upskill and reskill

Image credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

By Dr. Larry Rosia, president and CEO

Upskilling and reskilling the workforce is widely understood as vital for the success of any post-pandemic economic recovery.

This fact is underscored in a recent report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) titled The Future of Jobs Report 2020.

The need to upskill and reskill was already evident before the rise of COVID-19.  The pandemic has only made this necessity more urgent.

“Automation, in tandem with the COVID-19 recession, is creating a ‘double-disruption’ scenario for workers,” the report states.  It goes on to predict that 50 percent of all employees will need reskilling within the next five years.

“In addition to the current disruption from the pandemic-induced lockdowns and economic contraction, technological adoption by companies will transform tasks, jobs and skills by 2025,” according to the WEF.

This reality is something no organization in Saskatchewan or Canada can ignore.  Employers and employees alike will need to be ready as the window of opportunity to reskill and upskill becomes shorter in a constrained labour market.

Reskilling and upskilling are top-of-mind at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.  In a quest to be responsive to the needs of businesses and individuals, we have many initiatives underway since launching our new School of Continuing Education in September.

One such initiative involves the Next Generation Manufacturing Supercluster (nGen), a non-profit Canada-wide organization with whom Sask Polytech has recently entered into partnership.  NGen leverages new technologies, such as robotics and 3D printing, to drive advanced manufacturing in Canada.

One of the benefits of nGen is its Accelerating Manufacturing Performance Upskilling Program.  Under the program, nGen covers 50 percent of the cost of training for manufacturers that enrol to upskill employees.  Because courses are web-based, employees can upskill during the pandemic.

Courses are provided by established trainers such as Sask Polytech, McMaster University and UBC Sauder School of Business, among others.  Sask Polytech offerings include courses in Project Management and Cybersecurity, and certifications including an Network Architecture statement of achievement, an Indigenous Leadership Skills applied certificate, and a Leadership Skills certificate of achievement.

Another new initiative involves a partnership with tech education firm Lighthouse Labs to benefit Saskatchewan’s growing tech sector.  Within this partnership, Sask Polytech is offering Lighthouse Labs’ 12-week bootcamp courses and six-week introductory courses in web development, data science and data analytics to students who enrol. During the pandemic, the courses are being offered remotely.

I am especially excited by this collaboration as it allows learners to develop the digital skills required to meet the province’s labour market demands and continued growth of the technology sector. As digital technology adoption grows, there will be no shortage of work for people with these skills for some time.

A third initiative we are proud of involves a new partnership between Sask Polytech and the Canadian Football League Players’ Association (CFLPA). This collaboration provides CFLPA members and their spouses with access to our School of Continuing Education courses and programs through a tuition benefit program.

When you consider that the average career in the CFL is three years or less, having access to such training provides an excellent opportunity for athletes to pursue rewarding professional careers beyond the football field. At the same time, it illustrates how important it is for everyone to consider what training or reskilling they may need for their next job or career.

For upskilling and reskilling to have lasting impacts, it is imperative that business leaders, particularly CEOs, understand the benefits.

According to global consultancy PwC, while many companies were able to pivot quickly following the initial lockdowns that were imposed as the pandemic grew, “the rapid move to a predominantly virtual world exposed gaps in the capabilities of companies and of their people.”

Was this the case at your organization?

In PwC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey, which was conducted before the pandemic, 93 percent of CEOs who had introduced upskilling programs said these programs increased productivity.  Other benefits cited included better employee engagement and improved company culture.

With more than 700 courses or topics available at the School of Continuing Education, Sask Polytech is well-positioned to help meet the reskilling and upskilling needs of companies and individuals.  In addition to customized corporate training, our teams are able to advise enrolees regarding the latest, relevant government programs that may help cover partial costs relating to their particular upskilling.

I invite you to learn more by visiting

Recent positive developments on the vaccine front should be a reminder that this pandemic will not last forever.  As history has shown time and again, periods of advancement and economic growth often follow periods of profound disruption.  Having the skills to seize whatever opportunities arise will be critically important.

Will your organization be ready?

Published January 2021