Digital Upskill: Improving Your Technology Skills

02 November 2020

From VOA Learning English, this is the Health & Lifestyle report.

If you asked me to name the top life lessons of 2020, my list would likely include these words: Technology skills are a necessity.

For the past eight months, many people have been working online from home. This kind of work requires a higher level of computer skills than ever before.

Now, there is even a term for it: "Digital upskilling."

Patricia Miller works for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Tampa, Florida. She signed up for the company's "Digital Accelerators" program. The training is designed to strengthen the high-tech skills of PwC's workforce.

Miller told Reuters news agency that before taking the class, she did not know how to write computer code. The program helped Miller to upgrade her digital skills. For example, she learned a coding language called Python.

Miller once worked in human resource and project management. The training helped her to become a leader in the office's information technology (IT) operations team.

"And now every time I get to use my coding skills like Python," Miller said, "I do a little happy dance."

Digital upskilling is not new. However, the COVID-19 health crisis has led to big changes and made this happen even faster.

Gianni Giacomelli is chief innovation officer at Genpact, a New York-based business that advises companies on business operations. He also is head of innovation design at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Collective Intelligence Design Lab.

Giacomelli says that since the COVID-19 pandemic started, many businesses have been fast-tracking their use of digital technologies.

"They are enabling people to learn wherever they are, whenever they want, on any device," he noted.

A company can be more successful or earn higher profits if their employees are "up to speed" on the latest technologies.

FILE - South Koreans in traditional scholar costumes use laptops at the digital version of a state examination, which were carried out during the Chosun Dynasty, at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul May 14, 2006.
FILE - South Koreans in traditional scholar costumes use laptops at the digital version of a state examination, which were carried out during the Chosun Dynasty, at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul May 14, 2006.

But what tech skills are we talking about?

This past summer, the career website LinkedIn looked at job openings for in-demand work-related skills. Most of the skills were technology related.

Working with Microsoft, LinkedIn has set up free training for in-demand jobs. These include positions as a computer software developer, digital marketing representative and IT administrator.

But it is not just the technology industry that must digital upskill.

"Before, there used to be tech jobs and non-tech jobs. Now there are just ‘jobs'," said Joe Atkinson. He is PwC's chief products and technology officer. He added that everyone needs to be at ease when using technology.

Experts offer a few suggestions on how companies should support digital upskilling. However, these guidelines can also be helpful for individuals and families.

Think small

For many people, learning just does not get done because the work can seem so massive, even frightening. Breaking larger learning goals into smaller tasks, or projects, can help.

"If you ask an employee to find six hours for a learning effort, that's really hard," said Atkinson. "But if you ask them to find 15 minutes -- that's a lot easier.

He calls it a "bite-size approach." And he thinks it can make a big difference.

Think as a group

For some businesses, having an employee learn a digital skill alone on a computer might be a good idea. However, it may not help the company as a whole.

Instead, Genpact's Giacomelli suggests that companies think about the whole company and how employees interact with each other.

"Create opportunities for employees to source knowledge and learn from each other," he said.

This idea can be likened to how many families operate. Does someone in the family have knowledge the others do not? Create a way to share it.

Create an ongoing learning habit

Technology can change very quickly.

For example, the coding language Patricia Miller learned, Python, might be out of date in a few years. So, experts urge you to find ways to always keep learning and improving your technology skills.

And that's the Health & Lifestyle report. I'm Anna Matteo.

Nacho Doce reported this story for the Reuters News Agency. Anna Matteo adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

lesson – n. something learned through experience

digital – adj. using or characterized by computer technology

accelerator – adj. a substance that speeds a chemical reaction

management – n. the act or art of managing : the conducting or supervising of something (such as a business)

code – n. a set of instructions for a computer

upgrade – n. to raise or improve the grade of : such as

innovation – n. a new idea, method, or device

fast-tracking – adj. to speed up the processing, production, or construction of in order to meet a goal

opportunity – n. a good chance for advancement or progress