Between the mass unemployment caused by the pandemic, and swaths of industries pivoting to digital automation, the workforce has been propelled to think more critically about the current and/or the next steps in their careers. The question is, what employers are doing to support it?
The answer for the time being seems to lie in reskilling and upskilling. While the concept of reskilling and upskilling is not new, it has become more commonplace, as many are finding themselves navigating job searches, seeking career advancements, or pivots all together.
The two terms are often mistaken for one another. Reskilling requires workers to learn new skills altogether to equip them to move to another job area, industry or specialty. While upskilling primarily focuses on helping employees become more skilled and relevant at their current position, or to advance within the organization.
As the government continues to support the automation and digitization of certain industries, while assessing the economic impact of pandemic-caused unemployment, workers are finding themselves needing to upskill and reskill in order to either improve their proficiency on automation or acquire new roles in entirely different industries.
Simultaneously, as workers begin to consider and weigh all their employment options and favour remote-first workplaces, employers have been forced to think critically about ways to enable their employees, safeguarding retention and building organizational commitment and employee connection.
CEO & Founder of EnPoint Chantal Brine believes that mentorship is a key solution for both workers and employers who are investing in reskilling and upskilling.
EnPoint is an organization that is dedicated to employing meaningful mentorship programs within organizations, Not For Profits, and Post-Secondary institutions through their software and mentorship program design services. Chantal and her team at EnPoint have experienced firsthand the benefits of mentorship in supporting people as job seekers and working professionals while navigating in their careers. This is especially true with those reskilling and upskilling.
There’s value in mentorship for both mentees and mentors to continuously refresh and enhance their own skill sets. With the evolution of how quickly career titles have multiplied, it's natural for workers to transition across different careers throughout their lifetime.
These career transitions inevitably require some level of reskilling and/or upskilling. What was previously known as “soft skills” are becoming core and foundational skills in any industry. Mentorship can serve as a vehicle to practice or ”upskill” skills such as communication, relationship management, time management, adaptability, and more, within the context of an increasingly digital world of work.
In terms of reskilling, EnPoint has seen success partnering with programs such as Digital Nova Scotia’s Skills For Hire. This program provides beginner-level training in web design and development, user experience, or cyber security. EnPoint supported the program’s career development portion, facilitating small group sessions and acting as ‘career mentors in residence’ by guiding participants through their Career Kickstarter model™.
In this model, participants are guided through a series of steps to help them articulate their career target and create a strategy to work towards realizing that target, complete with goals, timelines, and resources needed to achieve those goals. From the model participants can find themselves connected with their passion, gaining a better understanding of their career goals, growing confidence, leveraging the right connections and pursuing their potential career paths related to their new found tech skills.
EnPoint also provided one-to-one participant support with a dedicated EnPoint Career Strategist; meetings are used to provide personalized support and help remove individual obstacles to career success. The program is designed to equip participants with self-awareness, confidence, as well as teach them the skills, and apply these newly developed skills through the hands-on experience they need to build their careers within the tech sector. Beyond this, participants will understand how to better position themselves in a competitive job market through branding, building their network as well continuously investing in an intentional career path.
“Just finished my first career kickstarter, I thought it was worth saying that I am so grateful for this opportunity and the support we are receiving from everyone. There were so many questions I never even considered in the past and I wish I would have been exposed to these questions when I was younger. I am looking forward to our 1 on 1, I'll be ready to go to map out a plan for the future.”
- Digital Nova Scotia participant
Mentorship can also be a critical component in propelling diversity and inclusion across various industries.
According to Forbes, mentorship can boost representation at the management level between 9 to 24% (1). In partnership with the East Preston Empowerment Academy, Nova Scotia Community College, YMCA – NS Works Employment Service, and many other community partners, EnPoint supported the launch of the Pathway to Building Construction Trades Mentorship program for racialized Nova Scotian Women and Men.
The Pathway to Building Construction Trades project aims to bridge the gap between training and employment to increase the number of African Nova Scotians, Black Canadians, Immigrants, and other racialized apprentices who have historically been underrepresented in the construction trades. Through the program, participants acquired and enhanced their language and communication skills in a construction environment while applying methods and materials typically used in the building industry in Canada. Their training involved introduction to the construction industry, as well as safety, tools and equipment used in various trades, including a 6 month work placement and mentorship. EnPoint’s Mentorship software was used to deploy and manage their scalable mentorship program and track its progress with ease.
It’s also clear that mentorship within reskilling and upskilling have been mutually beneficial for employers who have invested in in-house programs.
A 2019 report by Gallup stated that the cost of replacing an employee can be equivalent to one and a half to two times the employee’s annual salary. For companies with over 100 employees, this might mean spending approximately $660,000 to $2.6 million per year in employee replacement costs (2).
As the pandemic continues employers are seeing mass resignations from employees over work conditions, pay, the virus, or the evaluation of their careers. According to Business Insider, August of 2021 saw a record breaking 4.3 million Americans leaving their jobs behind (3). As a result, employers are scrambling to hire as they undergo severe labour shortages.
Mentorship can be a fantastic solution for employee retention, attraction, satisfaction and development in the context of reskilling and upskilling. 74% of employees would like to receive more training, and because of a lack of training, they feel as though they are not reaching their full potential (4). As a result, 33% of employees leave due to a lack of support from management and development opportunities (5).
Through mentoring, workplaces can connect an employee with skill gaps with an employee who excels in that skill. Through this relationship, the company presumably retains the newly skilled talent, allowing them to “test drive” the employee without having to incur any additional costs of replacing them or hiring a new worker. Reports show that both mentees and mentors are 6x more likely to be promoted than those who are neither (5).
Mentorship not only gives employees an opportunity to learn from someone more experienced, but also by facilitating these relationships can create a more cohesive and productive team and accelerate the careers of employees. Companies that offer opportunities for growth and development to its employees, can enhance loyalty amongst employees and foster a culture of progress. This leads to more engaged and happier employees.
It’s obvious that the benefits of mentorship within reskilling and upskilling go beyond just what is applied in the workforce.
As many “leave their comfort zone” and transition back into the workforce and perhaps into a new industry, the confidence of working is inevitably impacted as they venture into the unknown with reskilling. Similarly, those who upskill may lack the confidence to advance their roles within their companies and look for promotional opportunities.
Meaningful mentorship can transform the self-esteem and bolster confidence of workers through support, critical feedback and motivation.
More than ever, mentorship has had undeniable economic impact through creating lucrative careers within growing industries, expanding the skills of the workers. For the workforce it has created more meaningful and passion-fuelled careers.
“At EnPoint, we focus on what we can contribute and how we can be a part of solutions and opportunities to the problems caused by the pandemic on the workforce. The pandemic has allowed the freedom for some to reflect on what they really want in life, especially in career; for others, career changes were forced on them.”
We noticed that workforce development focuses on skill development, but can sometimes lack internal support and connection to one’s self, community and industry. By applying a mentorship model to any reskilling or upskilling initiative, it allows individuals to receive critical support in areas like building self-confidence, exploring opportunities for personal growth, deepening self-awareness, and of course creating relevant connections.
There is incredible value in being able to speak to someone who has ‘been there before you’, while you are embarking on a new career path. Learning through their experiences, mistakes and wins can help expedite your career progression.
"We are excited and driven by the work we do with organizations who are committed to using mentorship as a way to help people build better careers for themselves, their families and communities.”