In this rapidly changing career landscape, employees and employers cannot afford to sit still. A recent survey found that 60 percent of employees believe their current skill set will be outdated in the next three to five years (West Monroe Partners). Furthermore, the World Economic Forum estimates that 54 percent of all employees will require significant upskilling by 2022. That same WEF future of jobs report emphasized that “there is an unquestionable need to take personal responsibility for one’s own lifelong learning and career development.”

Increased interest in upskilling is a sign of how technology is disrupting the business world. It is also a sign that companies are placing more value on professional education.


What Is Upskilling?

Upskilling is a process of adapting and enhancing existing abilities in which an employee’s talents and experiences are fused with new strategies and upgraded skills. For example, an IT professional might take leadership training in order to start overseeing a team, or a marketing professional might learn about business strategy in order to contribute to requests for proposals.


Soft Skills Are Leading the Way

Learning new technologies is certainly part of upskilling. However, the speed at which technology changes coupled with the accelerating creep of automation means that employers are increasingly looking for more timeless competencies, which we generally know as “soft skills” (though there is a push to rename these as “power skills”). According to the World Economic Forum, nearly all of the most in-demand skills fall under this category:

  1. Analytical thinking and innovation
  2. Active learning and learning strategies
  3. Creativity, originality, and initiative
  4. Technology design and programming
  5. Critical thinking and analysis
  6. Complex problem-solving
  7. Leadership and social influence
  8. Emotional intelligence
  9. Reasoning, problem-solving, and ideation
  10. Systems analysis and evaluation

LinkedIn also estimates that creativity, persuasion, collaboration, and adaptability are top skills for the 2020s. This means that working professionals who want to future-proof their careers need to look for training that emphasizes leadership, innovation, and communication. The best business certificate programs are those that fuse soft skills with business essentials and are most likely to give employees long-term benefits.

Plus, data shows that investing in these skills pays off: an MIT Sloan School study found that soft-skills training led to a 250 percent return on investment.


Why a Business Certificate Program?

While some companies offer in-house training programs, most employees turn to outside sources for upskilling. Since most skill seekers are full-time workers, they need training that fits alongside their work and home responsibilities. The majority of professionals who want upskilling do not need to go back to school full-time and gain an additional degree.

That’s where a certificate program comes in. With a structure designed for working professionals, it offers planned, accredited learning without the larger financial or time commitment required by an MBA or other graduate degree. The courses are designed and taught by experts and the content is specifically made for professionals. For example, Vanderbilt’s online Business Management Certificate classes are taught by the same full-time faculty who teach at the residential business school.

Since networking is important to development, these classes also build in opportunities to ask questions and bounce ideas off other professionals through discussion boards and projects.

When a student finishes the required courses, they gain tangible results—an official certificate and continuing education units. They finish with actionable strategies, an enhanced resume, and a path forward to leadership positions.


Who Benefits from a Business Certificate?

A business certificate may seem geared towards B2C or B2B companies, but the skills that a certificate teaches—like strategic decision-making, team leadership, risk avoidance, and financial planning—can be applied across a wide range of industries including nonprofits, the public sector, and educational or social services.

According to Burning Glass, a jobs and labor database, some of the industries that most request a business certificate include:

  • Healthcare and social assistance
  • Manufacturing
  • Finance and insurance
  • Scientific and technical services
  • Educational services
  • Public administration
  • Accommodation and food services
  • Construction
  • Transportation and warehousing
  • Real estate

And some of the top job titles, according to Payscale.com, are:

  • Director of Operations
  • Executive Director
  • Office Manager
  • Chief Executive Officer
  • General / Operations Manager
  • Administrative Assistant
  • Accountant
  • Executive Assistant
  • Business Manager
  • Financial Controller

Ready to start your own upskilling? Talk to a career advisor about the online Business Management Certificate from Vanderbilt Executive Education by calling 844.825.9663, emailing vandybusinessonline@vanderbilt.edu, or using the chat box below.


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