Online education portals like Udacity and Coursera are really changing the world of remote learning in significant ways. By making free and high quality education accessible to a global audience, these platforms are opening up undreamt of possibilities for communities around the world to improve, grow, and prosper in the digital economy of the 21st century. Education at top tier colleges and universities has traditionally been a social and economic privilege, but now anyone can join in the learning revolution by sitting in virtual classrooms with the world’s best and brightest educators. Whether this involves learning how to code and build smart phone apps, or starting up a new business, or learning about public health literacy, the sky is the limit of what’s now possible.

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How to retrain and retool for the digital workforce

We hear more and more today about the “digital workforce” and its implications on the future of business. What exactly is the DW and what does it mean for your organization? One credible resource puts it this way: “The digital workplace is the collection of all of the digital tools provided by an organization to allow its employees to do their jobs.”




So when we talk about digital tools – we have in mind access devices (think Android, iPhone, tablets, etc.); communications infrastructure to support voice, video, and data capabilities; and telecommunications and collaboration tools for real-time presence like audio, video, and web-conferencing; not to mention, the cybersecurity network that keeps it all protected. In other words, when we think of the digital workforce we should have in mind this rich set of tools and resources at our disposal that are emblems of the digital age – most of which emerged in just the past few years.

Closely aligned with the trends towards digitization, other technological forces are changing the very nature of work. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, automation, and smart machines are making certain jobs obsolete. In fact, one study suggests that nearly half of U.S. jobs may be automated in the next 20 years.

When it comes to preparing for the digital workforce and ensuring your employability for the future, no one – not your manager, CIO, or HR rep – can do a better job of keeping your skills relevant than you. Have you thought about a plan to keep your skills updated and retain your position in the age of digitization, smart machines, robots, and other forms of job-outsourcing automation?

The bottom line is this: How will you retrain and retool yourself to stay relevant in this matrix of innovation and transformation? Do you have what it takes to compete in the digital workforce of 2020 and beyond? It’s a very important and relevant topic. Here are some practical ways you can keep ahead of the tsunami of technological changes that will sweep the globe during the next decade.

Learn to code

Coders and programmers are the architects of the digital era. Whether HTML5, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby on Rails – or what have you, developers today are writing the applications that will continue to impact our lives in profound ways. Line after line of functions, classes, objects, and loops are building our digital world into a place of unrealized new possibilities. Whether building the next generation of mobile apps, games, or other automation features . . . those with the skills to create this digital world will find no lack of jobs and opportunities awaiting them! There are tons of options out there to fit all schedules and budgets, ranging from free online tutorials like Codecademy (or very low cost ones like Treehouse) or the selection of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) that have sprung up in recent years such as Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy, and edX. For the more ambitious, you can try any number of onsite coding bootcamps, or even online coding bootcamps (Bloc, Tealeaf Academy, and Thinkful).




Go the extra mile on your day job

When offshoring and outsourcing do come to your organization, you’ll want to be well-positioned as a person who is irreplaceable. To prepare ahead, get into the mindset of over-delivering on your work and providing the highest results. Become a thought leader and subject matter expert across different lines of your business. Develop an innovative mindset that embraces creativity and out-of-the-box approaches to solving old problems. Take ownership of your role and imagine where you want to see yourself in the next 5-10-15 years.

Try freelancing

Technology growth also means that employees need to think and act innovatively and brainstorm new ways of doing business in order to keep their job skills updated. Have you considered freelancing? More and more attention has been focused lately on this online working revolution. According to the results of a recent survey, 1 in 3 people in the U.S. workforce, or 53 million, are freelancers. There are lots of reasons why freelancing is a smart career move. Rapid growth in technology, rising business operating costs, growing competition for jobs, and high costs of living are all factors that are leading millions of skilled professional to join this growing revolution.




Try a startup

Eventually you may not have a choice but to try a startup. The following blurb will explain why:

Consultants and freelancers are cheaper than full-time staffers with benefits, software developers overseas cost a fraction of what they cost in the U.S. and, by 2030, robots will be able to perform most manual labor . . . Even employees who are employed in large corporations are encouraged to be “intrapreneurs,” meaning that they are in many cases given company time to come up with disruptive ways of thinking about corporate organization and practices.

You get the point. Competition is more fierce than ever and employees today will increasingly find themselves constrained to think and act innovatively and to brainstorm new approaches to business. Whether strengthening existing skills or learning new ones, there are plenty of ways to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities that transcend the regular day job. There’s never been a better time for skilled workers to try additional gigs in their off hours, whether freelancing or running a startup.

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About Jeffrey Walker

Jeff is a business development consultant who specializes in helping businesses grow through technology innovations and solutions. He holds multiple master’s degrees from institutions such as Andrews University and Columbia University, and leverages this background towards empowering people in today’s digital world. He currently works as a research specialist for a Fortune 100 firm in Boston. When not writing on the latest technology trends, Jeff runs a robotics startup called, along with oversight and leadership of - an emerging market assistance company that helps businesses grow through innovation.