Dear Colleagues,

Despite the depressed economy, up skilling is still very much alive and well. Although, who pays for it has changed dramatically over the past few years. An interesting recent report by Kelly Global Workforce Index, shows that more and more engineering professionals (amongst others) are proactively grabbing training opportunities themselves without relying on employers to provide them.

This is different to only five years ago, when companies used to budget for training of their staff. However with tough times for many employers, this approach to training has dropped off dramatically. Perhaps you have been affected with fewer training opportunities due to lower profits of the firm you are working for?

Employees are now taking responsibility for their own up skilling and paying for it themselves. It is critical in today’s fast moving technological world to keep sharpening your knowledge and skills to take advantage of the growing and changing job opportunities – particularly in engineering.

Up skilling and Staying with your current company
Interestingly, this report notes that a large percentage (60%) of people are not up skilling to find new jobs – on the contrary, they are loyal and hoping for promotion within their current company. And no surprise to most of you - the most valued source of training (as expected) is on-the-job training.

Don’t give up when your initial training request is turned down
Today, managers don’t have the big budgets for training; so they often have to reluctantly turn down training requests. Hence, if you are putting in a request for training, you need to make a clear case of the benefits to the organisation – otherwise you are wasting your time. Putting a request in generally shows the company that you have initiative and are keen about up skilling and thus benefiting the company. So keep trying and your persistence will be rewarded. Naturally, the training junkets in Bali and Hawaii are generally a thing of the past.

Up skilling can also be cheap
Bear in mind that expensive training is not a requirement for up skilling. It can be as simple as buying a book. Or engaging in on-the-job training or finding a mentor to help you gain a particular skill. This is often the most powerful form of training.

Find the Time
When working, it can be difficult to block off the time to put the effort into up skilling yourself or gaining the requisite knowledge. The best way I find, is to build a habit of studying at a particular time and particular place. Often first thing in the morning before coming to work or at lunch time. Make time by getting rid of some extraneous activity such as perusing emails, or trawling news-sites and Facebook. Many companies are requesting vendors to come in and provide lunch-and-learn sessions about a particular technology. A great idea; as long as there isn’t a huge amount of selling their products or services but focussing on real training.

Technical Skills are Vital but so are Soft Skills
As engineering professionals, technical skills are critical to you but communication skills can also make or break you – especially when you want to move up the career ladder. Soft skills are thus a critical part of your career armoury.

Up Skill Collaboratively in a Team
An innovative way is to work in teams to up skill. This can be a very motivational experience in improving your skills in a team and working together on assignments or problems in a collaborative way. Your colleague can be your coach.

Thanks to John R. Platt of the IEEE for an interesting article on skills.

Remember, Joseph Badracco's famous comment: In today's environment, hoarding knowledge ultimately erodes your power. If you know something very important, the way to get power is by actually sharing it.

Yours in engineering learning,

Steve