What is upskilling – and how can you do it?

what is upskilling

Are your skills out of date? 

In an ever-changing job market, it’s essential to keep your skills up-to-date. Now, more than ever. In fact, the most in-demand occupations or specialties didn’t even exist ten years ago. One way to future-proof your career is to regularly upskill, but what is upskilling, and why is it needed?

Here’s everything you need to know about upskilling, along with our top tips to help you do it: 


What is upskilling? 

Upskilling refers to people learning new skills in order to keep up with changing demand, enabling them to fill skills gaps and remain competitive in the job market. 

According to our latest research, two-thirds of people said they would consider upskilling in their career*, highlighting the importance of continuing professional development.

Ongoing digital transformation means job roles are morphing, processes are improving, and everybody’s seeking new and better ways of doing things – making a ‘lifelong learning’ mindset more important than ever. 

In the words of Wayne Gretsky, hockey legend, upskilling is about developing competencies that enable you to ‘skate to where the puck is going’. 

It’s this; just with a lot less actual hockey. 

How to fit work around studying


Why upskill?

Upskilling should be something you’re always doing – whether it’s at work, at home, or just whenever you have a spare half an hour. Here’s why: 

  • You’ll have the skills employers want. Business needs are always changing, so you should embrace change too. Keeping your finger on the pulse (and your head in the books) when it comes to in-demand skills will ultimately make you a more attractive candidate – improving your career prospects and helping you stand out from the crowd. And with 58% of people stating their qualifications have helped them secure a career*, you can be confident that gaining the right certifications will help enhance your career prospects.
  • You’ll demonstrate adaptability. An ability to embrace change is becoming increasingly important when it comes to finding the right employee. An ongoing commitment to upskilling will show a willingness to learn new things and adapt accordingly in a fast-paced and fluid working environment. 
  • You’ll be better at your job. Upskilling isn’t just beneficial to employers – it will also enable you to do your work more effectively. After all, technological developments are designed to make people’s jobs easier, improve efficiency, and reduce mistakes. Say goodbye to manual data entry, and say hello to streamlined-everything. 
  • You’ll be more confident. Upskilling isn’t just about meeting your career goals. It could also help you with your personal development – enabling you to learn new things, boost your self-esteem, and grow your skills in a wide variety of fields. 
  • It could help you change careers. Sure, you have skills – but are they the right ones? If you’re looking for work in a brand new industry, upskilling is absolutely essential. Not only will it teach you how to do a new job and demonstrate your commitment to learning in a new field, it’ll also enable you to tick the boxes recruiters are looking for. You’ll also draw attention to your transferable skills

Six reasons you should start studying


How to upskill

To help you get started, here’s our step-by-step guide to upskilling: 


1. Figure out what you need to know 

The first step to upskilling is identifying the skills gap you need to fill. Whether it’s a new job, a promotion, or a career change, it will require a certain set of skills, proficiencies, and certifications. 

For example, if you’re looking to start a career in accounting, you might need to obtain an AAT qualification, a programmer might benefit from expanding their knowledge of coding languages (e.g. JavaScript, Python, HTML) whilst a career in design will call for abilities in specialist software such as Adobe

If you’re struggling to figure out the requirements for your field, job descriptions are a great place to start. 

And, whilst technical skills and proficiencies are often essential, soft skills should never be overlooked. Communication skills, teamwork skills, and problem solving abilities are amongst some of the top skills employers are looking for when it comes to finding their perfect hire*. 


2. Search for part-time learning opportunities

Learning comes in many forms, meaning that you don’t have to quit your job, study full-time, or even enter a classroom to upskill. 

In fact, there are a number of courses marketplaces (we happen to know a good one), universities, and colleges that offer a variety of part-time and online courses in every subject imaginable – from regulated and professional certifications to CPD courses. All you have to do is select the one that suits your needs and fits your schedule. 

What’s more, if you’re short on time – many allow you to get certified in just a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks.  


3. Make the most of free courses and finance options

According to our recent survey, 30% of people say the cost of upskilling is holding them back in their career*. But what if we told you that you could learn for less, or even for free? 

Taking on training (many companies offer skills workshops, and/or training and development programmes) or new responsibilities within your current organisation is a great way to develop your skills and grow within your field. 

There are also many free courses, low-cost learning opportunities, pay by instalment options, loans, bursaries, and scholarships available. These enable you to develop office and computer skills, upgrade your software abilities, and gain sector-specific knowledge without having to pay the full cost of a university degree. 

Five ways to make studying affordable


4. Use online resources and social media 

While 50% of survey respondents said taking a course was the best way to upskill, 21% of people turned to online video tutorials, and a further 20% said they’d read books or research papers to advance their skills. 

Whether it’s through live webinars, seminars, or networking events, there are a number of ways to grow your industry knowledge online. All you need is an internet connection and a willingness to learn.  

By signing up to industry newsletters, subscribing to blogs, and following industry leaders on social media, you’ll get regular updates that will keep you in the know about technological developments – not to mention pinpoint the areas you need to upskill in. 



Ready to upskill? View all available courses now. 



*Survey commissioned by Reed.co.uk consisting of 2,000 UK job seekers between 8 – 13 February 2023.