If we’re all going to have to change careers in our lifetimes, what skills are we going to need?

Guest post from Emma Cerrone. Emma is the co-founder and Managing Director of Free:Formers. She has been named as a finalist for the National Business Awards New Entrepreneur of the Year, held on November 11 this year.

WE’VE all heard the statistics about the average number of careers people are likely to have in their lifetime.  For the baby boomers it’s two careers. For their parents, it was definitely one - and normally that job was for life.For today’s school and university leavers it’s as many as seven. And, yes, that’s seven careers - not jobs - before they retire.


That presents its own challenges, not least because adapting and preparing for seven totally different careers is not something people can realistically do from education alone.

Of course, studying a certain topic at university might prepare someone for their initial career. Re-training whilst working is another option. 

But what’s certain is that learning can no longer end at the school gates. Frankly, so much of what we learn there is already out of date by the time we have finished learning it. Nowhere is that more of a truism than with tech and digital skills and business needs to wake up to that fact.

Most companies invest in some training and development, but many employers still ignore the fact that many workers want to be trained up for their next job whilst already in their current one.

Education counts, especially at work. If you want to retain your best staff you have to provide training that benefits both parties.

When it comes down to it, I strongly believe that business as a whole can learn a great deal from the methods we use at Free:Formers. We work in the field of educational technology, or EdTech as many of us know it, where academic credentials are far from the be all and end all.

In fact, several of our staff have come to us with barely any qualifications at all through our unique ONE:FOR1 model. For every business person we train, we train a 16-25 year old unemployed person for free. One had three GCSEs, another was sleeping rough when we first met him.

But both had an innate ability to create, innovate, adapt and learn - and a huge desire to succeed.

The first employee has gone from barely being able to create a Word document to becoming one of our star trainers in 18 months, helping some of the UK’s top executives understand and grasp digital skills for the first time.

Now he’s training staff from FTSE 100 companies, has met the Chancellor of the Exchequer three times and has even spoken at the European Commission in Brussels.

It’s hard evidence of what EdTech can do for you - and for your company. At its best, tech education is all about bringing down barriers to learning, making training easier and as accessible as possible.

At Free:Formers we call it the ten per cent rule. We give people a kick-start, boost their confidence and set the ball rolling.

And once inspired, people can go much further than you think, be it in coding, marketing, design, engineering or social media.

It’s amazing to see people pick up a digital swagger and use it to further their own careers.

There are some great examples.

Just look at the Microsoft IT Academy, which focuses on the basics as a good foundation for future training.

Or the Duke of York’s innovative iDEA scheme, which nurtures and mentors young British entrepreneurs, furnishing them with the business skills and experiences they need to succeed.

As companies invest in digital transformation, looking internally and externally for the talent they need to keep up with the rapid pace of change, I’d encourage them to look beyond the fads and fashions. 

Invest in the digital ‘how’, not the ‘what’: how to innovate, how to collaborate, how to engage. 

You’ll be surprised at the benefits to both your business and to your employees.

At least until they tell you they want to change career.

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