The Covid-19 pandemic began as a public health crisis, but it has transformed into an economic disaster. Between March and April, 22 million workers lost their jobs. Moreover, Gallup recently found that subjective well-being reached a new 20-year low. Even though the Covid-19 vaccine is being deployed, and Congress is potentially on the precipice of a new stimulus, there is still uncertainty over the pace and strength of the economic recovery.
The labor market has clearly changed. For example, the sectors that held more digitally-intensive workers experienced much smaller employment declines than their counterparts. That’s in part because these jobs are much easier to make remote, if they weren’t already. In fact, roughly a third of jobs are always working remotely now and an additional 25% sometimes work remotely, according to Gallup.
Given that the labor market has fundamentally changed, we’re going to have to think about how we upgrade our skills for the new digital economy. Even those who are employed will need to think seriously about how the workplace has changed and what’s ahead of us.
But, what’s the best way to go about reskilling, particularly when traditional institutions of higher education have shut down their campuses? We suggest that there are two important ways that people can sharpen their skills without incurring large financial costs.
First, online courses. Particularly in the absence of in-person classes, online training has become the best education alternative during the pandemic. The number of online degrees, courses, and specializations are unlimited.
Anyone can learn a new skill regardless of their industry. One of the most outstanding advantages of online courses is the fact that most schools provide up-to-date education. This is particularly good for those who want to start a new career after the pandemic.
In fact, recent research in partnership with the EdTech company DataCamp has found that participation in online coursework increased by 34% following the introduction of state non-essential business closure laws. Moreover, engagement among existing users also grew, which is important since it shows that people didn’t simply sign up and forget about the coursework — they returned to and worked on it. Although these state policies have been harmful for business, many have responded by doing what they can — learning more.
Second, gig work. With the rise of the digital economy and new platforms for creating value, gig work has soared, according to Pew Research. Although gig work is generally not a complete substitute for salaried employment, it can help cushion against layoffs, including what many have experienced during the pandemic. Already, millions have become freelancers during the pandemic.
One of the benefits of gig work is that it provides a convenient opportunity to refine specific skills without having to commit to an entirely new employer. In fact, many professionals who already have full-time jobs may want to experiment with gig work, particularly in the tech sector. That allows them to build a new career without having to quit their jobs.
The pandemic is also altering the set of skills that are valued in the marketplace. Besides the obvious — that the healthcare sector experienced a substantial increase in demand — the tech sector has rapidly expanded. For example, web developers and digital marketers continued working despite the pandemic.
Based on our survey of the labor market, we believe that the following skill sets will grow in demand following the pandemic.
- Software development: Covid-19 increased the demand for software developers, according to Objectivity.co.uk. Once the pandemic is over, these companies will still require software development services.
- Digital marketing: Marketing never stops. Companies still need to sell their services or products to keep their business afloat. For that reason, it’s very probable that digital marketers will continue to be in-demand after the pandemic.
- Web development: Covid-19 has increased Internet use by up to 70 percent, according to Forbes. The e-commerce industry has risen drastically, which means most businesses need to compete with that. Telemedicine has also become very popular over the last couple of months, so the healthcare community is investing more money in web development.
- Cybersecurity: Even before the pandemic, there was a substantial shortage of cybersecurity professionals. During the pandemic, a lot of people started working remotely and this generated a major concern among most companies: cybercrime. It became crucial for them to find new strategies to protect their data from malicious actors.
Another welcome trend is in the financing of educational investments. Already, many schools, such as Thinkful or General Assembly, offer a wide range of payment options that make it possible for almost anyone to pursue their educational goals. For example, income sharing agreements (ISA) are a common offering these days. These ISAs allow the student to take a course, but only start paying when they land a job in their field. This strengthens the incentives on both sides: the learner still has an incentive to get a job and the provider has an incentive to help the learner find a job since their revenue depends on it.
ISAs can be particularly beneficial for unemployed people. This way, those who lost their jobs during the pandemic will have another chance in the post-coronavirus world. ISAs are just one of many examples of financing options in the online education industry. There are also plenty of alternatives, including scholarships, loans, and flexible payment options.
We are increasingly seeing how macroeconomic events and technological change can fundamentally change the labor market and our livelihoods. That means upskilling and the acquisition of new knowledge has never been more important. The coronavirus outbreak shook everyone’s world. We must learn to adapt and be resilient.
Keep in mind that there are many resources you can use to reskill yourself: from government training programs to online courses and even self-learning. The important thing is to invest some time in developing new skills. Some of the most in-demand skills in a post-coronavirus world include cybersecurity, digital marketing, and software development.
by Christos A. Makridis and Artur Meyster