The pandemic hit the economy in the worst way and every year after that we've spent on recovery. The U.S. economy shed a record 22.2 million jobs in March and April alone, as the economy slowed to a crawl in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, even in a down economy, there is a deepening shortage of skilled tech professionals as AI, big data, cloud services, and other technologies continue their exponential growth. For savvy professionals, this skills gap presents exciting new career opportunities, greater job security, and the prospect of a bigger paycheck. If you haven’t decided on a New Year’s resolution for 2024, then you may want to consider upskilling.  

More than half of all employees required significant upskilling in 2022, as it became increasingly difficult for employers to find qualified candidates and this year a lot more people are considering upskilling. Most professionals did not learn today’s most in-demand skills in college, and on-the-job training only gets you so far. Make no mistake: today’s global, tech-driven economy demands a culture of lifelong learning and growth. Whether you’re a working professional, between jobs, or want an entirely new career, structured training programs and industry-recognized certifications can help open doors to a prosperous 2024. 

Thanks to advances in distance learning technologies and methods, adding to your professional toolkit is more accessible than ever. If you’re unsatisfied with your career path or just want to gain an edge, invest in yourself and make upskilling your top New Year’s resolution. The following is an overview of the many benefits of upskilling and the skills that are most in demand today.

Invest in Yourself: The Upside of Upskilling

As long as you go into it with purpose and a plan, enhancing or adding to your professional skill set may be one of the best investments you will ever make. Also, the world is much different now than it was when college (and even high school) grads could make a decent living without returning to the classroom. This is why more and more employers are implementing ongoing training programs, sometimes in-house, for their most valued employees.  

The benefits of learning new, career-focused skills should be self-evident; but, if you’re still on the fence about pursuing a training program, upskilling can:

  • Help you stay ahead of the curve as companies adopt new technologies and business processes
  • Ensure that you have a brighter career path by training for the jobs of tomorrow
  • Sharpen your mind and keep it engaged, helping you cultivate a growth mindset
  • Open the door to new opportunities, including promotions, jobs with new employers, and entirely new careers
  • Boost your salary and seniority level

Balance Soft Skills with Hard Skills

So-called “hard skills,” whether it’s the ability to code in a given programming language or a working knowledge of Agile or other project management methodologies, are necessary for certain positions. However, employers are beginning to realize that “soft skills,” including the ability to problem solve, communicate clearly, and adapt to change, are just as (if not more) valuable. Soft skills are closely linked with our personalities and approach to life in general, so they’re not easily learned in a classroom setting. 

Smart employers will make an effort to keep and promote employees with these soft skills, since they’re so hard to assess during the hiring process, while encouraging them to regularly update their hard skills (often covering the cost). In fact, the very willingness to learn new hard skills in order to raise your professional stock demonstrates underlying soft skills. Employers want dynamic, open-minded professionals who aren’t content to simply rest on their laurels. 

Follow the Money

While upskilling provides intangibles such as stoking a culture of lifelong learning, challenging (and thus sharpening) your mind, and the reassurance that comes with mastering the latest technologies, the main purpose is to broaden your career horizons and ultimately improve your livelihood. This typically includes the prospect of a higher salary, but many professionals value having a more satisfying job or the flexibility of having a wider array of choices even more.

While you may have other motivations to learn new skills, the upward mobility and salary increases that typically follow in the wake of upskilling are easier to quantify. IT professionals who upskilled in 2019 saw an average raise of $12,000 to $13,000 in 2020, according to the most recent IT Skills and Salary Report from Global Knowledge. The average salary increase was 6 percent and those who received certifications saw the most gains, according to the report. If you’re moving into a new, high-demand field, such as data science or machine learning, you could see a much higher salary bump.

Meanwhile, employers know that offering (and paying for) employee training saves them time and money. According to two separate 2019 reports, it costs an average of $4,425 to hire a new employee, but just $1,300 to upskill an existing one. High turnover also can hurt morale, halt the progress of ongoing projects, and curtail productivity. More employers are discovering this cost differential, so it’s worth asking for their support if you require additional skills.

Get Ahead of the Curve With the Latest Technologies

If you’ve decided to make upskilling your New Year’s resolution, then you’ll want to do some research and choose a training program that helps you reach your professional goals, fits with your schedule, and provides the best possible educational experience. As you consider your options, it’s a good idea to identify the skills that are both in your wheelhouse and most in-demand. These include (but are certainly not limited to) the following:

  • AI and machine learning. The use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate certain business functions, including the proliferation of chatbots, is only just beginning.
  • Cyber security. There is a huge demand for qualified cyber security professionals, as data breaches and other such vulnerabilities cost businesses billions each year.
  • Data science. The latest software applications, combined with the scalability of cloud computing, are finding novel ways to turn unstructured data (of which there is plenty) into business intelligence.
  • Cloud computing. Fewer organizations are using in-house servers, as cloud computing allows for greater scalability and better cost controls. Companies need help launching cloud applications and migrating existing networks onto the cloud.
  • Project management. As design, manufacturing, and software development becomes more complex and time-to-market tightens through competition, proven project management methodologies have become more highly valued.

You Can’t Afford to Sit Still in a Fast-Moving Economy: Get Certified Now

As IT managers stay awake at night worrying about how to fill open positions, proactive tech professionals can seize upon this skills gap through continuing education. Simplilearn offers a wide variety of industry-aligned training programs in today’s hottest technologies, taught by leaders in their respective fields and offered in a way that works with the busy lives of working professionals. Some introductory courses are even offered free of charge! Don’t wait, seize the future by upskilling today. 

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