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Future of work

What models are available for upskill workers?

Upskilling is vital in fast-moving markets, with businesses and countries employing a variety of strategies to stay one step ahead. In Switzerland vocational training is popular, while Singapore educates its people on the skills businesses need so they can ensure they remain in demand.

Lifelong learning

Online learning and development (L&D) platforms, nanodegrees, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) enable more flexible, agile skills development. Lifelong education is integral to wider dynamism: the most innovative economies have the highest share of adults participating in education and skills programmes.

‘For companies, reskilling and upskilling strategies will be critical if they are to find the talent they need and to contribute to socially responsible approaches to the future of work.’ Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, World Economic Forum.

Apprenticeships and vocational training


Two-thirds of Swiss students opt for vocational training through ‘dual’ programmes that combine classroom study with workplace training. Switzerland was the most innovative economy in the world in the 2017 World Intellectual Property Organization ranking.


More than half of German students opt for vocational training over higher education; Germany’s jobless rate for under 25s was 6.4 per cent in 2017, compared to a European average of 19 per cent.

We expect that in the future, the job market will increasingly place a premium on ongoing worker knowledge and training. Accordingly, the demand for us all to be lifelong learners will only intensify.

John Palmer
Senior Vice President


10 hours a week

The amount of homework required of students on AT&T’s six- to 12-month-long nanodegrees, which are run in partnership with online education company Udacity. AT&T is one of the world’s oldest companies – it was founded more than 140 years ago and spends $200m a year on its internal training curriculum, T University.


The number of Udacity nanodegree graduates in 2019. Companies using the system include AWS, Facebook, Google, Airbus and Accenture.


of millennials would spend their own money on skills development, according to a survey by Manpower.

Man + machine

Technology is not simply about replacing human labour; in many cases it enhances what people can do. Innovations such as computer-assisted design, voice recognition software and augmented reality ‘smart glasses’ boost human capabilities in areas from manufacturing to design.

Digital ‘badges’

A nimble, flexible way to upskill workers in a structured, résumé-credible way; digital badge initiatives can be applied to soft skills, transferable or portable capabilities and experiential learning. Adopters including IBM, EY and Pearson use badge programmes in areas including AI, data visualisation, leadership and self-management.

Under Singapore’s SkillsFuture initiative, employers are asked to spell out the changes they expect to happen over the next three to five years, and to identify the skills they need to adapt. Their answers are used to create ‘industry transformation maps’ designed to guide individuals on where to head.