This is part of the article “Future skills for a life long competitive advantage - part 2”. Click here to go back to the full article.

Employer examples in brief

Seattle Genetics

This Washington, US based biotech company offers its employees tuition reimbursement, on-site training courses and access to job-related conferences and seminars. “Developing our employees’ careers is an investment for both our employees and the future of Seattle Genetics.” Taylor Cline, Staffing Associate.  


SAS, a leader in business analytics software and services, offers their employees emerging leadership development programmes, career mentoring and a career resource centre.    


Amazon, the e-commerce company, gives new employees a month long training and leadership programme before they are hired and pre-pays 95% of tuition. It allows employees to train from home with their virtual contact centre.  


AT&T, the high-speed internet entertainment and voice services company, offers their employees an AT&T University programme. It focuses on leadership and management, and provides a degree. They also offer micro-degrees. “We’re focused on aligning company leaders to strategic business innovation and results, skilling and reskilling 280,000 employees and inspiring a culture of continuous learning.” Mary Richter, Corporate Communications Manager.  

Task Rabbit

Task Rabbit have updated their business model from competitive to collaborative. Taskers now organise virtual or life sessions for other taskers, share instruction manuals and videos to help others develop skills which are in high demand. This enables some workers to become more skilled without the need for formal education or apprenticeships.


Case studies

Case study: The country of Singapore

The country of Singapore has an innovative approach to future skills. A portal has been created by the Singapore government in association with employers, unions and training providers.

Its purpose is to empower Singapore citizens to plan lifelong skill and career journeys and to be a ‘one stop shop’ for education, training and career guidance with details of courses for your chosen vocation and sector to stay relevant and upskill.  

The portal has courses, articles, e books and media and a national skills competency framework.

The portal includes a ‘skills passport’ and its aim is to create a common skills language for individuals, employers and training providers and to build deep skills for a lean workforce, enhanced business competitiveness and to support employment and employability. The competency framework is an integral component of ‘Industry Transformation Maps’ – a method to ensure the country of Singapore’s continuing supremacy in the world’s work market globally.  

Key information about sectors, career pathways, occupations and roles and emerging skills required for the occupations and job roles is provided and a list of training programmes for upgrading skills and achieving skills mastery.  

Individuals can use the skills framework to make informed decisions on education and training, career development and skills upgrading.  

The portal’s navigation includes:

  • Sector information

  • Career pathways

  • Occupations/Job role descriptions

  • Skills descriptions

  • Training programmes

Employers can use the Skills framework to design progressive human resource management and talent development plans.  

Training providers can gain insights into sector trends and skills in demand, helping them to innovate and tailor their programmes to the needs of specific sectors.  

Individuals are encouraged to take individual ownership for their skills and careers. Young people under 25 years of age are given $500 Singaporean ‘opening credits’ to encourage them to invest in their skills.  

There are fellowships for adults with over 10 years’ experience and awards to encourage skill mastery.  

Opportunities to ‘earn and learn’ are also given on the portal.  

Case study: Olamalu, Oxfordshire, UK

I interviewed Kate Berman, co-founder and operations director of a small business, Olamalu, web technology experts based in Witney, Oxfordshire about her views regarding how best to ensure staff have the future skills in her fast changing sector of IT. Olamalu, established in 2010, are highly skilled web developers with a dedicated team that excel at building web sites using Drupal - a cutting edge c.m.s. system (content management system) which is a proven global ‘heavy-weight’ in the world of websites.

The rest of this case study is in Kate’s own words.  

It is hard for young people to get started in their careers because employers ask for experience and of course you cannot get experience without having a job. You can teach people tech skills and give them the opportunity to learn them on the job.  There is a lot of negative PR about young people, when actually what they need is support to get started, and apprenticeships can be an excellent alternative to University. 

There needs to be a better understanding of how to teach young people in the workplace what they need to learn and the importance of having the right attitude.  

It is important for all staff to have a growth mindset in a small business, especially in a fast-moving sector like I.T. IT/web/digital is a very rapidly changing industry with faster skills obsolescence than other sectors. 

In the past, staff were specialists with irreplaceable skills. Now the demand for coding skills is strong, but constantly evolving.  Specific coding skills have a short shelf life, so individuals need to make sure that they possess up-to-date skills and to continually re-train to learn the latest new coding language for a successful career. Individuals need to like and embrace continual learning.  

In the UK, there is no common language for skills.  

Of course, as well as technical IT skills, individuals also need ‘soft’ skills, including:  

  • Problem solving

  • Customer services

  • Time management

  • Thinking skills

  • Communication

But making sure that young people possess these skills is not the focus of school education. The UK education system is more subject knowledge focused, and so employers need to think about how they support individuals to develop these attributes on-the job, through training or experience.  

The hardest piece is teaching young employees thinking skills. In school, they are told what to do, but the working environment requires individuals to be skilled at flexibly dealing with challenges as they arise.   

A crucial skill as an employee is problem solving. Individual young members of staff need to learn to use critical thinking to make decisions and evaluate the consequences of their decisions. It helps to be in a supportive culture to do this – learning from their mistakes without this being a risk to the business.  

An important consideration for employers regarding future skills is balancing formal training and on the job training. The best way to learn is through experience, but formal training needs to fill in the gaps. Employees need to be given real challenges to learn from and time and support to learn and make mistakes. Employers need to think ahead, balancing short and long term business and client needs.  

We have a competency framework for different job roles and the different levels of career progression. This was developed from an Industry wide framework SFIA (Skills For the Information Age). We use our competency framework to assess our staff and to help identify gaps and therefore opportunities for further development.  

At Olamalu, we have developed our own programme for technical training. Individuals also need to be able to learn on their own, and to make time each week for this. We provide exercises for young staff members to practise on and challenging projects at work to develop their skills. Our programme also helps our staff to develop good attitudes and interpersonal skills.  

We do an annual skills audit review, looking strategically at the skills we have in the business currently, compared to what we will need in future. At monthly reviews, we look at the skills of our staff, and plan next steps in how to build both their competence and confidence. We plan the training we give in quarterly cycles and provide our young staff with constant mentoring and coaching from others on the team.   

Case study: specialist school

In Oxfordshire, a school UTC Oxfordshire, specialises in Science and Engineering. Oxfordshire is a county with a strong tech focus and many companies clustered together in hubs at Harwell and Milton Park. The school is the first in the UK to have a cryogenic lab to help educate children about this specific competence which has many applications for different employers.


16 practical tips for individuals

  1. Define your core skills

  2. Refresh and enhance your core skills

  3. Keep up to date with new developments in your professional area

  4. Research trends for your specialism

  5. Learn new skills adjacent to your professional area e.g. data analytics for HR professionals, or neuroscience for executive coaches

  6. Define your Continual Professional Development (CPD) focus areas

  7. Plan time each month for your CPD, including informal learning

  8. Acquire skills that are growing in demand

  9. Take advantage of free opportunities to learn e.g. Moocs

  10. Enrol for certifications and accreditations to give yourself an additional competitive edge

  11. Benchmark your skills, experience and knowledge against competitors with a similar skill-set to you

  12. Assess the depreciation value of your current skills, knowledge and experience and plan accordingly

  13. Create a longterm career vision and CPD goals to achieve it

  14. Arrange skill swaps for a cost-effective ‘win win’

  15. Develop skills mastery

  16. Consider taking a CPD career break to upskill and develop skill mastery

 10 self-reflective questions for individuals 

  1. Which of my current skills are still very much in demand and what are the reasons for this?

  2. What is the future outlook for my current skills?

  3. What basic skills can I acquire now that will move me in the future direction I want to go?

  4. What future skills if I develop them today will make me marketable for tomorrow?

  5. Which new skills if I invest in them today will increase my earnings potential tomorrow?

  6. What skills if I developed them would help me to get the promotion or job I aspire to?

  7. What tasks or projects have been a challenge because I felt I lacked the skills or knowledge to complete them?

  8. In what areas of my work do I feel that I am stagnating?

  9. What skills if I acquired them would enable me to better achieve my KPIs (key performance indicators)?

  10. How can I find out the most in-demand general and job specific skills required by employers required for the type of work that I do?

 21 practical cost-effective ways to build future skills for individuals  

Improving skills for individuals does not have to cost a lot of money, nor take a lot of time. Options include: 

  1. Doing a skills health check by the National Careers Service

  2. Evening classes

  3. Free online course e.g. Moocs from credible organisations

  4. Skill swaps

  5. Watching videos e.g. Ted talks

  6. Modelling – interviewing someone who is good at a skill to learn from them; this is called ‘modelling excellence’

  7. 121 tuition

  8. Getting a mentor

  9. Reverse mentoring e.g. a young employee helping a mature employee to understand social media

  10. Reading business or personal development books

  11. Attending events and workshops provided by your membership organisation

  12. Keeping a diary to reflect on your skills, experience and knowledge and what would improve it

  13. Volunteering

  14. Helping a friend’s business

  15. Virtual training e.g. viewing webinars or listening to podcasts

  16. Create a portfolio career to develop your skills

  17. Developing a mindset of continuous learning to maintain and develop technological and interpersonal competencies

  18. Seek out experiences working with people from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds

  19. Coaching

  20. Self-coaching

  21. Cross departmental training


 8 self-reflective questions for organisations

  1. How can we provide training more flexibly?

  2. In what ways can we encourage employees to develop themselves and take responsibility for their own training?

  3. How can we create awareness of informal learning opportunities, e.g. mentoring, skill swaps, Moocs for our employees?

  4. What is the best way to audit the future-proof nature of our workforce’s current skills?

  5. How can we benchmark our employees’ skills against that of our best competitors?

  6. How is the profile of our employees changing?

  7. How are my needs within the business changing?

  8. How can we ensure future skills are a strategic priority in our organisation?

 Skills assessment audit – organisations  

Step 1: Assess where you are and where you need to go – having a clear vision

Step 2: Develop and communicate – create transparency about what skills are needed and expected and create individualised learning journeys, with frequent reviews and support to monitor progress and reassess requirements.

Step 3: Integrate the new – recruit new staff with the future skills needed to deliver your organisation’s vision. 

Step 4: Accelerate career change – help staff to apply their skills to real challenges that the organisation faces to create innovative new solutions.

Step 5: Engage support – create partnerships with other organisations such as academic institutions to revise programmes and create opportunities for lifelong learning.  

Job mobility, retraining and job rotation can be an effective way of refreshing skills. Job redesign is worth considering, especially if you have high retention with employees staying with your organisation out of fear of moving employers in uncertain times.

This is part of the article “Future skills for a life long competitive advantage - part 2”. Click here to go back to the full article.