Upskilling & reskilling: The key to thriving in the future workplace

As technology and the economy continue to evolve, upskilling and reskilling have become increasingly important for who want to thrive in the future workplacein South Africa. Upskilling refers to learning new skills that enhance your existing knowledge and abilities, while reskilling involves learning completely new skills to transition to a new role or industry.

The jobs of the future will require a different or updated set of skills, knowledge and abilities than those of the past.

Let’s take a look at some of the key trends to look out for in the future of work.


The rise of automation, including generative AI, is definitely one of the biggest trends in the future of work. lt has the potential to significantly impact a wide range of industries and occupations, and it is likely that many workers will need to reskill or upskill in order to adapt to this new reality.

While automation may displace certain jobs that are repetitive and can be easily automated, it also creates opportunities for new jobs that require skills that cannot be easily replicated by machines. For example, roles that involve creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence may become even more important in a highly automated world.

Moreover, the implementation of automation and AI systems requires a lot of expertise and support, which creates opportunities for jobs such as data analysts, machine learning engineers, robotics technicians, and cybersecurity experts, to name a few.

The gig economy

the rise of the gig economy has been a significant trend in recent years, with many people choosing to work as freelancers or independent contractors instead of seeking traditional employment. The increased use of online platforms has made it easier for people to find short-term or project-based work that fits their skills and availability.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend, as many people lost their jobs or saw their work hours reduced, leading them to turn to gig work as a way to make ends meet. This has highlighted the flexibility and resilience of the gig economy, as workers have been able to adapt quickly to changing economic circumstances.

freelancer working at home

The passion economy is a related trend that has emerged as a result of the gig economy. As more people have turned to freelancing and entrepreneurship, they have also been able to monetize their individual interests, talents, and expertise. This has led to the rise of new online platforms that allow people to sell courses, coaching, and other services based on their personal passions.

The gig economy was further intensified by the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and made way for a new, but related, trend referred to as the passion economy. The World Economic Forum (WEF) says the passion economy is where micro-entrepreneurs monetise their individuality and creativity. 

WEF said: 

A key reason for the growth of the passion economy is that it offers alternative ways of making money, innovative paths toward professional fulfilment and unprecedented career opportunities for [the youth].

South Africa is currently facing a youth unemployment crisis where a large number of young people in the country are unable to participate meaningfully in the economy.

In the last quarter of 2022, South Africa’s youth unemployment rate stood at 45.5%, and a report by Launch League, a training hub for South African entrepreneurs, suggests that it’s becoming increasingly clear that many won’t be able to get stable jobs in the formal industries as we know them.

The report highlights the gig economy as a potential means for income for youth struggling with unemployment. 

“With technological disruption, we have the opportunity to upskill and reskill young people with the appropriate skills and work-related capabilities that orientate them towards new opportunities to earn an income,” the report says.
It adds: 
Hubs, incubators, digital skills trainers and entrepreneur support organisations play a critical role in preparing people for the New Economy reality.
“By developing skills in entrepreneurship, digital technologies and gig work, they can provide youth a bridge to help them transition to these pathways to income.”

Digital skills 

The third trend to look out for is the increasing demand for workers with digital skills. As technology continues to advance, companies will need workers who can leverage digital tools and data to improve their operations and decision-making.
According to a report by Burning Glass Technologies, digital skills are becoming essential across a wide range of occupations, including marketing, finance and healthcare.
This trend is also reflected in the growing demand for jobs in technology-related fields, such as software development, cybersecurity, and data analytics.
The report says there are three groups of skills that have emerged as critical for the digital economy: human skills, digital building block skills, and business enabler skills. It refers to them as “New Foundational Skills”. 
A circle diagram showing new foundational skills f

The report suggests that current job seekers should pursue strategies to acquire these New Foundational Skills. Here’s what it advises:  

Identify gaps in current knowledge around new foundational skill areas.
Use internal training, boot camps, or education benefits to build these skills.
Learn to effectively communicate with, and learn from, digitally savvy peers.
Gain experience with adjacent tasks and functions, to develop the new skills.
Learn to signal demonstrable competencies in new foundational skills areas.

Soft skills

A fourth trend to look out for is the importance of soft skills in the future of work. Soft skills are personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively with others.
According to a report by the WEF, the top 10 skills that employers will be looking for in 2025 are:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation.
  • Active learning and learning strategies.
  • Complex problem-solving.
  • Creativity, originality and initiative.
  • Leadership and social influence.
  • Technology use, monitoring and control.
  • Technology design and programming. 
  • Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility.
  • Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation.
  • Critical thinking and analysis. 

These skills are becoming increasingly important as companies seek workers who can adapt to changing environments and collaborate effectively with others.

Wrapping Up:

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