PwC Reveals Why Its $3 Billion Upskilling Program Is Important For Society

By Amit Chowdhry ● Jan 2, 2020
  • Recently, PwC released a short documentary feature business leaders explaining why upskilling has become a priority for society, organizations, and governments

PwC recently released a short documentary where academics, NGOs, policymakers and business leaders are explaining why upskilling for a digital world has become a priority for society, organizations, and governments. The documentary — which is called Upskilling: Bridging the Digital Divide — also reveals why society needs to act quickly and collectively to tackle the global issue before large groups of people are excluded from the workplace.

During every major technological shift, many jobs are replaced by automation but the long term benefits for future generations can be great. And it is important for people to be open to being upskilled.

For example, there was a major disruption as many jobs and incomes disappeared between the late 1700s and early 1800s due to the Industrial Revolution. We could be at a similar time in history as many jobs are being replaced by technology.

“People are governed by their fears at the moment. By two to one, they think that the pace of innovation is too fast. Four out of five actually believe that their economic circumstances are going to be worse 10 years ahead. And it goes down to ‘I basically am afraid that machines are going to take my job,’” added Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman. “Business leaders have to stand up and say publicly that this reskilling is the most urgent matter in front of us as leaders, that we must actually take on not only our own workforce, but more broadly, communities of need and those might include people who you wouldn’t imagine.”

What is upskilling? Blair Shappard, Global Leader of Strategy and Leadership at PwC, explained that upskilling is all about preparing people for a technology-based future. And it has to do with enhancing the skills people have in the digital world and by increasing their capacity to be good citizens and good leaders along with increasing the ability to understand what is happening to ourselves and manage it effectively.

“The biggest societal challenge is the future of work, as well as what is the workforce of the future and the implications to a country’s citizens in terms of whether there are opportunities for them in the future,” said Robert E. Moritz, Global Chairman PricewaterhouseCoopers Int.

Governments have a responsibility to society to ensure that people have the right skills to enter the workforce. And governments also have an interest in people upskilling since tax receipts would decline as people become unemployed thus leading to social unrest. Some governments are already addressing the issue of upskilling. For example, the government in Luxembourg created the Skills Bridge project. The Skills Bridge project was about providing any kind of company with the right technical and financial support to upskill their employees according to their own strategies.

Citibank is one of the organizations that is committed to upskilling. Currently, Citibank employs over 200,000 people around the world. So it makes complete commercial sense to ensure that these employees are able to perform their roles to the best of their ability. By using institutional knowledge that Citibank already has, it is easier in many ways and layer more skills rather than hiring new people from the outside.

In late 2019, PwC had announced it was spending $3 billion to upskill its employees. This initiative is called  ‘New world, New skills.’ PwC chief digital officer Joe Atkinson is overseeing the developing of the training apps and tools for the program. And the upskill program is available for all 276,000 of PwC’s employees.

“The PwC approach to upskilling is a comprehensive one. First, you have to create the environment for people to want to learn, adopt, and evolve. And that requires the right leadership, first to make sure we’re motivating people to opt-in to the opportunities to be in a continuous learning mindset,” added Moritz. “Second is you do have to provide the training and the skills and the coaching necessary for people to evolve and advance and to have both the job security and the job opportunities that will be availing themselves in the future. Last but not least, you’ve got to make sure that you’ve got the right mechanisms in place, its assets, the curriculum, so to speak. And those are all the things that I think are very important to come together as one. So it’s a very comprehensive solution that we’re looking to adopt globally, not in one country or another.”

PwC US Chair and Senior Partner Timothy F. Ryan told Yahoo! Finance recently that he believes upskilling “is going to be as important as healthcare and retirement going forward.”

You can watch “Upskilling: Bridging the Digital Divide” here: