Byron Nicolaides: Solving the skills gap with continuous learning

The pace of technological advance and digital transformation is cause for a fundamental rethink in the way we teach, train, refresh and test knowledge in the modern working world.

Technology has had a profound impact on our working environment – from the new skills required to interact with emerging technologies, the ability to collaborate as cross-border teams, and the expectation that we can work remotely, across an increasingly long and ‘patchworked’ career. Against this backdrop, it’s clear that a one-off qualification, whether earned at university or elsewhere, will no longer be enough to see an employee throughout their career. We must be open to continuous learning in a bid to upskill ad reskill.

We see regular reports and analysis of the UK’s skills gap, particularly in the digital arena, as the country strives to achieve its ambition to be a world-leading digital economy. Of course, some of the responsibility to correct this lies in the talent pipeline, with the schools and universities who are shaping the next generation of workers. It is perhaps worrying then that new research from Microsoft UK shows that just 42 per cent of teachers say their school is primarily focused on instilling the skills students need for success in the world of work.

Clearly, this shortfall must be addressed. It’s interesting however, that the report doesn’t only talk about hands on training in digital skills. It also places significant emphasis on the need for teachers to instil the next generation with “the confidence, skills and lifelong learning mindset needed to succeed.” This phrase ‘lifelong learning’ was also prominent at Davos last year, as world leaders spoke about how workers must be comfortable with continuous adaptation to succeed in the fast-changing labour market. To put this into perspective, 65 per cent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.

We’re looking at a new and innovative landscape for learning, which is ongoing and modular, and with clear and proven cross-border benchmarks for best practice. Professional certifications have a major role to play in this future, ensuring that people have the skills they need for the modern working world – and can prove it. In a world full of technology, and collaborative teams, this degree of standardisation and assurance of best practice is key. For example, it is critical to ensure that everyone working on a project has the same understanding of its technical components, use cases, and security considerations.

As the workforce gears up for the digital future, it’s not only the expert knowledge areas that must change, but disruption in the way in which training is delivered – to fit around the incumbent workforce, who are looking to upskill or reskill. Going back to university to acquire new skills is not a viable or sustainable approach for most workers. The opportunity for modular learning and availability of remote online proctoring technology mean that candidates can take their exams from wherever they choose, fitting these around their work and personal schedules, in a comfortable, secure, and stress-free environment. It is the technology that underpins this which allows employers to have ultimate confidence in the security, quality and integrity of exams taken remotely.

“Skills” will continue to be the buzzword of 2019 – beyond specific job titles, employers are looking for evidence that their teams have the capabilities they need to perform highly in their roles. With an increased commitment to their own development to ensure they can thrive and adapt in the new world of work, we know that employees are hungry for learning opportunities. With this in mind, we can expect to see an uptick in workers seeking out qualifications that are not mandated by their employer. Effective training, mapped and tailored to an individual’s unique requirements, is one of the foundations of job satisfaction, morale and motivation. Certification of these new skills is the accompanying badge of honour, which reassures both the employee and the employer that they have the capabilities required to perform strongly in their role.

We don’t have the luxury of ‘pressing pause’ on the pace of change, for employers to gather their thoughts, governments to review curriculums, and a new generation of perfectly prepared talent to enter the workforce. Even if that were the case, by the time we hit ‘play’ again, those new skills would already be starting to slip out of date. We must tackle disruption head on, to ensure that today’s workforce is equipped to thrive tomorrow.


Interested in learning and development and digital skills? We recommend the Future of Work Summit 2019 and the Talent Management and Leadership Development Summit 2019.





Byron founded PEOPLECERT in 2000 and has since spearheaded a revolution in the testing and certification of professional skills. PEOPLECERT has delivered millions of exams across 180 countries through innovative, state-of-the-art technology platforms, widely recognised in the industry as the gold standard in examination delivery and certification of persons, both remotely and on-site. Byron is elected President of CEPIS, an organisation representing 450,000 ICT and Informatics professionals from 31 countries across Europe. Through his Presidency, Byron seeks to improve standards among professionals, as well as raise awareness of the positive impact of Informatics on employment, business and society. Prior to PEOPLECERT, Byron was a self-made entrepreneur and established several successful business ventures across a range of industries and sectors. He has also served as the International Vice President for Merrill Lynch from 1987 to 1992.