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The Great Skills Reset: Ways to Prepare for the Middle East’s Digital Economy

Digital Transformation Technology
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By Petra Jenner, GM and SVP – EMEA Emerging Markets, Salesforce

The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating digital transformations across all industries in the Middle East. Having shown how important digital skills are to sustaining our businesses, economies, and societies, how we work and learn has changed forever too.

Where the economic impact of the pandemic has forced companies to close and jobs to be lost, millions of people are having to embark on a new career path. This is easier said than done. According to the European Commission’s 2020 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI), whilst enterprises are becoming more digitized and most jobs require digital skills, 42% of the EU population lacks at least basic digital skills.

The Great Skills Reset

Change can be daunting, not least in choosing a new career path. If the pandemic is to represent an opportunity to pursue a ’Great Reset’ of our economic and social foundations, it’s imperative that we transform how we up- and reskill. Bridging existing and widening skills gaps isn’t just important to get people into meaningful jobs today, but also to ensuring everyone can participate in the digital economy of tomorrow.

At Salesforce we’ve seen a 37% increase in sign-ups to Trailhead, our free online learning platform, since the emergence of the pandemic. They join over 2.2 million other learners in building all kinds of technical, business, and soft skills, learning from experts in live classes and workshops. Encouraging users to learn at their own pace, whether they’re in work or changing career, is essential to preparing our communities for the future of work.

Hard and Soft Skills

Take hard skills like coding and building apps, for instance. Terms that might seem intimidating today, like Apex and JavaScript, are becoming commonplace at companies building online services. Other professions like marketing increasingly rely on using artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver successful campaigns. In the digital economy, these skills will be just as important as the ability to read and write today.

In an all-digital, work-from-anywhere we’re going to need the right soft skills, too. Whether it’s learning how to manage your time, engage others virtually, or being able to listen effectively. Developing our behavioral skills will help make us better leaders and inspire change across teams.

The Digital Reskilling Imperative

The workplace is not going back to the way it was before the pandemic. From the classroom experience to workforce development programs, the reskilling imperative requires a cultural shift to continuous, lifelong learning. In the changing economy, even resumes are going digital – giving current and future employers a trusted and verified view of an individual’s skills and accomplishments.

To keep pace with changes to the ways we work and learn, both Middle East governments and businesses have a role to play in reducing barriers to reskilling. Beyond the clear economic benefits this will bring to our economies today, it will become increasingly important to ensure no one is left behind by the technological transformations that will continue long after the pandemic.

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