Skip to Content

### Embracing Continuous Learning: Overcoming Barriers to Lifelong Upskilling

Upskilling has become a permanent fixture, with artificial intelligence (AI) playing a significant role in this evolution.

Recent research, conducted in collaboration with Harris Poll and exclusively disclosed to Fortune, reveals a unanimous global consensus on the rising importance of upskilling and reskilling throughout one’s career. Out of over 17,000 participants, 85% expressed this perspective in the inaugural annual [ppp1].

STEM-certified. Tar Heel ROI. No compromises.

UNC Kenan-Flagler’s highly-ranked online MBA program stands out as a premier option for seasoned professionals with a strong academic background. Achieve your degree at your own pace, spanning 18 to 36 months, without compromising on academic excellence. Gain access to lifelong career advantages and become part of a worldwide network of more than 42,000 alumni holding an AACSB-accredited online MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill. GMAT exemptions are available. Discover more today.

UNC Kenan-Flagler’s esteemed online MBA program is a preferred selection for experienced professionals with exceptional undergraduate performance. Complete your degree on a flexible timeline of 18 to 36 months while upholding academic quality and rigor. Benefit from lifelong career advantages and join a global community of over 42,000 alumni with an AACSB-accredited online MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill. GMAT waivers are accessible. Find out more now.

“We are no longer in an era where education concludes with attaining a degree or training; continuous learning is now imperative. Respondents worldwide have unequivocally acknowledged this shift. The global population is under increasing pressure to continually assess and validate their skills,” stated Michelle Froah, the global chief marketing and innovation officer at ETS.

This recognition aligns with the advocacy for lifelong learning by educational leaders and beyond—from [ppp2] to various sectors.

Nonetheless, the world also acknowledges the transformative impact of AI on the workforce, presenting both challenges and opportunities. While the demand for learning is heightened due to technological advancements, it also presents avenues for acquiring new skills.

“The swift advancement and integration of technology, particularly generative AI, have ushered in an era where skills can become obsolete in as little as two years in certain cases,” Froah informed Fortune.

Approximately three-quarters of the survey participants expressed willingness to rely on AI-generated recommendations for skill enhancement, yet a similar proportion recognized that inadvertent biases and programming errors within AI could adversely affect learning evaluations.

Accessibility of Upskilling

Despite the widespread acknowledgment of the importance of upskilling, engagement in upskilling or reskilling activities may not be as prevalent. Numerous significant barriers exist.

Foremost among these barriers is affordability, with 53% of survey respondents identifying cost or financial constraints as the primary obstacle hindering individuals from pursuing upskilling or reskilling. Furthermore, 41% believe that the major impediment lies in the lack of financial incentives, benefits, or recognition for such efforts. Consequently, not only is upskilling training inaccessible to some, but others also fail to perceive a substantial return on investment.

Froah emphasized the global necessity for heightened focus on educational programs that deliver tangible outcomes, noting that prosperous societies typically have greater access to upskilling opportunities.

“This serves as a clarion call, not only for learning accessibility but also for the provision of tools to assess and validate skill proficiency,” she emphasized.

Interestingly, skepticism persists regarding the capacity of online learning platforms to expand and address these requirements. Earlier this year, assessments for publicly traded edtech companies like Coursera, Chegg, and Duolingo shifted from hold to sell.

Numerous tech companies have endeavored to bridge skills gaps through their training initiatives and platforms—some fee-based, others complimentary. However, for learners, navigating this expanding ecosystem can be daunting.

Cisco recently spearheaded an initiative with leading tech entities such as Google, Microsoft, and Intel to confront AI’s impact on the workforce.

Perpetual Emphasis on Soft Skills

As AI increasingly permeates the realms of education and employment, the most crucial skills for any candidate are fundamentally human: soft skills. In fact, LinkedIn has identified these as the top skills required for 2024.

Echoing this sentiment, the ETS survey underscored the paramount importance of communication, problem-solving/critical thinking, and creativity as the three core skills for “life success.” While technical skills, creativity, and digital literacy ranked high in the job market, it is evident that AI is heightening the demand for individuals to distinguish themselves through human attributes.

“To empower individuals, businesses, and economies to thrive in this environment, we must reassess the skills we need to cultivate and evaluate,” Froah concluded.