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5 key trends shaping the upskilling landscape

5 key trends shaping the upskilling landscape


While employees and employers alike are seeing the need for upskilling, many surveyed cite a lack of time as a top challenge in doing so - for instance, employees are too busy with work (49% of employees) or it disrupts day-to-day operations (58% of employers).

When it comes to attending training programmes to upskilling themselves, time constraint has emerged as a top challenge faced by many, a report released on Monday (1 November 2021) has revealed.

According to the report by NTUC LearningHub, titled Workforce Learning in Workplace Transformationof 450 working professionals surveyed in Singapore, a majority said they are  "too busy with work to do so (49%), or are "unwilling to attend courses outside of work hours (34%).

On the employer front, close to six in 10 (58%) cited "attending courses as disruptive to day-to-day operations” as the main obstacle when implementing training programmes for their employees.

This is one of five key trends on upskilling that were identified in the report, with the full list shared below:

#1 While L&D programmes are considered a business imperative, employees are dissatisfied with the current training offered

Per the report, almost all employers (98%) and most employees (99%) surveyed believed it is either 'very important' or 'somewhat important' for their company to ensure the continual learning & development of employees.

In that vein, the top three benefits of employee training were:

  • It improves employee productivity (71%)
  • It helps build a culture of continuous learning (67%)
  • It has a positive impact on the department's productivity (59%)

With these in mind, how do employers and employees feel about their company's current training programmes?

According to 38% of employers, their L&D programmes are either 'fair', 'bad', or 'very bad'; while a higher percentage of employees (45%) shared the same sentiments. Why was this so?

Employees noted the following top three reasons:

  • The range of topics covered by the training programmes is limited (40%);
  • The approach to training is boring/conventional (37%), and
  • The training topics are not relevant to advance at the workplace/future jobs (18%).

Meanwhile, employers revealed their top three reasons as:

  • The range of topics covered by the training programmes is limited (26%);
  • The approach to training is boring/conventional (26%), and
  • The quality of training resources is poor (22%).

#2 Employees desire more support from their companies

The good news is, a healthy percentage of employees (88%) either 'strongly agree' or 'somewhat agree' that their company and line managers fully support them participating in training.

That said, about three in 10 (32%) did note that they lack support in covering their work while they are away on course, which thus poses a challenge when participating in training. 

What then, do they believe would help increase their participation in training porgrammes?

It would be the provision of paid leave days/hours for L&D purposes 961%), followed by better support from line managers/supervisors to provide temporary covers on workloads so they can fully concentrate during the course (52%), and third, the offer of shorter refresher courses (43%).

On the employer front, most employers would require greater support from management (67%) and department heads/managers (58%), and free training resources to tap on (54%) in order to make an L&D programme successful.

#3 Lack of time is the top challenge for employees’ participation in L&D programmes

As shared earlier, lack of time has proven to be a key barrier to participating in skills training programmes — and it is so for both employees and employers.

While "too busy with work to do so (49%), or are "unwilling to attend courses outside of work hours (34%), and "there is no one to cover me while I am away on course (32%) were the top three obstacles faced by employees, the obstacles faced by employers are:

  • Attending courses can be disruptive to day-to-day operations (58%);
  • Employees are too busy with work to attend training (58%), and
  • Lack of support/interest from employees on courses offered (46%).

#4 There is optimism around L&D programmes in a post-pandemic era

Upskilling has, undoubtedly, come up as one of the main focus areas of many employers in the past close to two years.

Per the report, nearly four in five employers (78%) surveyed either 'strongly agree' or 'somewhat agree' that their firms have adapted their L&D programmes well to cope with the changes brought about by the pandemic.

According to respondents, the top three reasons cited for an increased focus on this include:

  • A need to upskill employees with skills to adapt to the new normal (73%);
  • A need to maintain/improve employee engagement (49%), and
  • The increased availability of training resources (e.g., classes, courses, etc) (41%).

Overall, putting on a post-pandemic lens — a majority of employers (73%) and employees (82%) surveyed have expressed confidence on some level, in the company's ability to provide effective workforce learning, post COVID-19.

#5 Employees are keen on upskilling outside of the workplace

On this trend, more than half of the employees surveyed (55%) shared that they have taken steps to seek external L&D on their own in the past 12 months, with the remaining 45% saying they have not.

Among reasons for doing so, were:

  • To stay relevant and keep up with the latest trends (70%);
  • To remain competitive in the workforce (61%), and
  • To learn new skills that might not be relevant to their daily job (50%).

Additionally, employees of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and employees below 40 years old are most likely to seek external training outside the workplace. with close to two in three from SMEs (63%) seeking so.

  • Large private firms (51%)
  • MNCs (53%)

Last, the report also revealed the top three skills that employees sought external upskilling initiatives, namely:

  • Technical skills (i.e., industry-specific technical skills) (59%);
  • Technology skills (i.e., general technology skills such as AI, software proficiency), and (59%)
  • Soft/adaptive skills (e.g., communication, leadership etc) (53%).

Photo / NTUC LHub

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