Learning and upskilling has become even more popular - and more important - in the last two years, and some skills, particularly the IT-related, have been hogging headlines for months, mainly because companies are running into a serious shortage of these skills. But what are people actually spending their time and money on learning?
Earlier this week, Skillsoft released a report measuring the types of courses and content with the highest consumption rates on its Percipio platform during 2021. The edtech giant recorded that approximately 12.7 million courses were completed worldwide on its platform in that years, making for a pretty good database of what skills people have been pursuing.
The basics are still the most popular
For all the hype around IT and tech, the top 10 most popular learning topics in the APAC are still very skewed towards fundamental, ground-up workplace skills, sometimes termed power skills - reflecting that even while companies chase after higher-level talent, the basics are still badly needed.
Image: Skillsoft Lean Into Learning: 2021 Annual Learning Report
Six out of these top 10 skills are non-role-specific soft/power skills, with working remotely ranking #2, suggesting that even two years into the pandemic, many employees have still not quite gotten the hang of a remote or hybrid environment. Workplace basics such as presentation skills, communication, time management, and even relationship building are also up there.
The #1 skill is a soft skill as well: customer service. This particular skill is in the top 20 for all the regions Skillsoft's report measures, and has been among the top 5 trending topics for the last two years. But only in APAC has it hit #1, possibly due to a demanding customer base. Prior research by Avaya, Zendesk, and others indicates that APAC consumers expect a high level of customer service and feel that companies are not currently doing enough to provide a good customer service experience. However, Skillsoft's report doesn't break down whether the APAC demand for this skill comes from employers wanting their workers to develop it, or employees taking the initiative to meet customers halfway.
As for IT and digital skills? They first come in at #10, with people keen on the CompTIA A+ certification, which CompTIA itself - the US-based Computing Technology Industry Association - touts as "the starting point for a career in IT." Further down on the list, mixed in with more workplace fundamentals and customer-oriented skills, big data and digital marketing can be found.
Other regions are much more focused
The APAC emphasis on soft skills and workplace basics is a sharp contrast to the popular skills in other regions. India, for example, is almost stereotypically IT-focused, with tech skills such as the Information Technology Infrastructure Library foundational skills, agile, cloud, and - very specifically - IT project management dominating the top 10.
Western countries including the US, UK, and Central Europe, meanwhile, are inclined towards business ethics, with anti-bribery high on their lists of trending topics. Technology and compliance also feature heavily, with the odd soft skill mixed in.
Overall, Skillsoft's report also noted a large increase in consumption of certain types of content last year. Measured by the number of hours spent on it, compliance content saw the biggest jump, at 120%, taking it into the top 10 trending topics for several regions including APAC; consumption of tech and software development-related content increased by 36%; and consumption of business and leadership content increased by 30%.