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Upskilling and reskilling: A conversation making its way to the front of digital learning

Sysdoc Global

Spencer Holmes, Director at Totem Learning Ltd, and Sarah Vaughan, Sysdoc Digital Learning Manager have been co-hosting for the past few months vlogs with a number of inspiring guest speakers from across the digital learning industry. Vlogs that often side-track into other topics which unearth points of discussion that could easily exceed the allotted time slot of recording. However, all are linked and crucial to digital learning and how to navigate it in a remote world. A reoccurring theme in these vlogs, what a shame that it took a global pandemic for us to realise the attention we need to give to digital learning, in particular reskilling and upskilling our workforce. 

This vlog has quite the line-up:

  • Spencer Holmes – Director at Totem Learning Ltd
  • Sarah Vaughan – Sysdoc Digital Learning Manager
  • Elizabeth Sonola – Sysdoc Consultant
  • Rochelle Robertson – Diversity Learning and Inclusion Manager at Soho House (Founder of TING)
  • Precious Ajoonu – Head of Youth Engagement and Learning at Jobberman Nigeria

Spencer; "For this vlog we had a fascinating chat with Rochelle RobertsonPrecious Ajoonu, and Elizabeth Sonola. What stood out for me, in particular, was Precious' story about up-skilling 5 million young people across Nigeria and how they are overcoming really gnarly issues with limited tech, a lot of skill, and a tonne of passion - it CAN be done."

Trying to have a conversation that starts with the question, ‘what is hot in learning and development right now’, is a huge task to take on and a very broad statement in itself. There is a huge focus on how this can be successfully maintained remotely, but it is easy to forget the countries and communities who were not prepared for remote learning before Covid-19 and are struggling to keep it sustained now. You might be surprised to know that these communities are the ones striving for the biggest goals!

Upskilling young people, specifically to teach soft skills has highlighted the huge gap that has existed up until now. Precious Ajoonu explains how many young people in Nigeria are not employable. But why not? They certainly have the technical skills and are trained in their specific fields, however, the feedback from potential employers is that these young people are lacking communication, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Being able to cope emotionally, not just professionally, in a post-pandemic world is so important and we have seen every rulebook thrown out the window as we learn to adapt on the spot.

Reskilling is inevitable. Think back to what we once considered to be the new and improved technology or piece of equipment we would use every day. It has changed, been thrown out, redesigned and repackaged making it impossible to not reskill, no matter how far into your career you are.

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What else will you find discussed in this vlog?

  • Even in a global pandemic there are many macro-events going on in the world. Attention has been given to the overall picture, but not always to the finer details. The world was already changing before the pandemic, but this has only highlighted that upskilling needs to be approached in the right way and consistently. Many steps towards innovation have been overshadowed by the overarching event that is Covid-19. Automation, for example, was on the scene before the pandemic hit and it was already causing professionals to re-evaluate their skillsets. Particularly how they as individual professionals can stay as an essential asset in their workplace.


  • Retention in the workplace and upskilling the youth that will take on our future is only a small part of the conversation. Of course, emphasise needs to be given to ensure they are supported during this time, but you also have the difficult task of reskilling the minds of those who have been working for decades to change what they know. Investing in existing workforces is just as important as upskilling the new talent coming into the industry.


  • Yes, it is important; How do we engage new talent and encourage them to join the ranks? BUT … how do we keep current employees feeling supported and able to evolve? Understandably they will want to reskill themselves, so they are not left feeling vulnerable and replaceable by a young, more agile workforce.


This vlog highlighted a number of blind spots that can occur when you are focused on your own organisations ecosystem rather than the full picture and the hurdles other professionals are trying to tackle. For example, an INCREDIBLE mission is being undertaken to upskill 5 million young people, 100,000 of which have been trained so far since this task started in June 2020. Precious; “When people think of Nigeria, they think it is 1 whole country with one way of thinking, but actually there are different regions and areas who have their own hurdles when learning soft skills and upskilling, whether that be a language or technical barrier. Inclusion is the top of the list when it comes to priorities, whether you are digitally literate or not, you still should have the opportunity to have access to learning.”

One inspiring statement that came from this vlog resonated with us at Sysdoc; “I am never in a room where I do not deserve to be there. This is a message for young men and women navigating their way in this world. Everyone deserves an education.”


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