Although economic experts have been forecasting a recession for several decades, no one could have predicted the source of the current crisis—or how fastly the economy would tumble. The COVID-19 pandemic, which forced instant closures of non-essential businesses worldwide to prevent the spread of the deadly spread, also left a massive recession and crippling unemployment in its wake.
As of June 2020, the U.S. unemployment rate was at a staggering 14.7 percent, with 30 million Americans out of work from the pandemic’s effects. The PRC (Pew Research Center) reports that “43 percent of U.S. adults now say they or someone in their household has lost a job or taken a cut in pay due to the outbreak.”
Although those job losses seemed temporary at first, the scale of the economic crisis has left many organizations on the brink of bankruptcy. As restaurants reopen, for example, it is not at full occupancy, to make way for social distancing. Consumers—even financially sound—are unlikely to return quickly to their previous eating habits. Professionals in those businesses may not go back to their roles in the near future.
One solution for employees hoping to maintain job security in their present positions or the unemployed is to change roles or careers. Acquiring necessary job skills or upskilling gives employees an edge in the race to acquire stable posts. As noted in the Harvard Business Review, “90 percent of workers feel they need to upgrade their skills yearly just to contend”—pre-pandemic.
In the past, workers facing unemployment may have sought a Master’s or Bachelor’s degree. This is an alternative if you have resources and a long-term focus. But for those people who need/want to get back on the payroll as early as possible, there are much less expensive, faster, and arguably more lucrative methods of obtaining the skills required to pivot into a covid-proof career.
Investing a couple of months in continuing education to reskill and upskill and can improve employability, especially in a recession. It is a small commitment throughout an entire career, and the skills can provide a much-needed safety net in this time of uncertainty. Here are some ways to upskill and get credentialed during COVID-19
Many organizations, including the ASCM (Association of Supply Chain Management), offer certifications that provide the skills and knowledge necessary to pivot into a more stable career. According to a DHL report, “Demand for supply chain workers exceeds supply by a ratio of 6:1.” And the prominence of a functioning supply chain has never been more evident than it is today as consumer demand for delivery services and groceries continues to escalate. ACSM provides free online access to the Basics of Logistics and Distribution.
This online module teaches the fundamental concepts needed to create an optimal logistics and distribution strategy. It is an excellent way for individuals outside of the supply chain field to explore their choices. For individuals who decide they want to pursue this path, receiving an APICS certification will fast track them into a supply chain career. ASCM offers two APICS certifications (CLTD and CPIM) for which a college degree is not mandatory. A 3rd certification (CSCP) is more geared toward those who are already in the field and want to advance their expertise. A research conducted by ASCM showed the median salary for respondents with an APICS certification is twenty-five percent higher than those without.
If changing careers isn’t an option, many certifications can improve stability and marketability in a current job. CompTIA, for instance, offers IT professionals certifications in various programming languages and other transferable skills, which can open the door to a greater variety of unfilled occupations.
2. Individual Courses
If you’re not in the certification market, there are plenty of opportunities to take classes to learn a new one or build your skillset. Companies such as Skillshare, Coursera, and Udemy offer online classes in everything from data analysis and marketing and to public health and entrepreneurship. Committing days or a few hours to master a new subject may allow you to pivot to a similar role in a different industry. At the very least, completing courses demonstrates an individual commitment to advancing your career.
3. Digital Skills
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “Around 2/3rd’s of the 13 million new jobs created in the U.S. since 2010 required advanced or medium levels of digital skills.” Digital skills are more necessary than ever to earn a better salary and obtain a job. The Brookings Institute reports that “workers are rewarded for their digital skills’ depth and breadth through increased salaries. Workers in occupations with high or medium digital skills in 2016 were paid significantly more than those in low-digital professions.”
4. Soft skills
Industry managers, Executives, and recruiters all cite the lack of soft skills as the most significant deterrent in finding suitable candidates to fill open roles. The DHL survey points to “strategic thinking, leadership, high-level analytic capabilities and innovation ” as required in supply chain careers.
Entrepreneur magazine notes “the authority you exhibit or “connectability,” the energy you exude and bring out in others and the warmth you convey.” Necessarily, the ability to collaborate effectively with other team members, manage people and tasks, and maintain cordial relationships within the organization are essential factors in securing a position.
Honing these skills, however, is a bit more unclear than training in a specific task. But enhancing soft skills often comes down to one thing: communication. Most of the most-required attributes thrive with in-person interaction. Even in the times of social distancing, workers can improve communication via video conference, e-mail, and real-time chat. Exercises in creative expression, online collaboration, and teambuilding games are all ways to practice problem-solving and build leadership skills.
These are useful tasks for workers who are still employed and trying to become indispensable, but they’re especially valuable for job seekers. As social isolation and remote work continue, the ability to communicate effectively while navigating the unknown is more important than ever.