Upskilling for Accountants

Published January 24, 2022 By Peggy Maranan, Ph.D., Director of Finance, DEMCO

Originally published in The Cooperative Accountant, Winter 2021 Issue

What is “upskilling”?  Merriam-Webster (n.d.) defines “upskill” as a verb: 

  1. transitive: to provide (someone, such as an employee) with more advanced skills through additional education and training  
  1. intransitive: to acquire more advanced skills through additional education and training 

Van Echtelt (2021) discusses the difference between “upskilling” vs. “reskilling”.   

Upskilling is the process of taking your skills and knowledge in a certain area to a new level, while the term reskilling involves learning new skills so you can do a different job. Upskilling primarily focuses on helping employees become more skilled and relevant at their current position within the organization (para. 3). 

Upskilling involves implementing training that improves an employee’s skillsets, with the intent of developing them for progression in their current role or for that employee to bring added value to the organization.  Cohen (2019) asks “Why has upskilling suddenly become so important?”  His short answer is “digital transformation.”  He further describes this as follows:  

The digital economy, enabled by astonishing advances in technology, is reimagining the provider-customer dynamic and transforming how goods and services are bought and sold. Customer-centric, tech-enabled, well-capitalized, new model providers are disrupting incumbents across industries. They share several core characteristics: a relentless commitment to improve customer access, experience, and loyalty; the efficient use of data; achieving “more with less” for the benefit of customers, employees, and shareholders; and constant improvement. Their models are built from the customer perspective, not to fit the provider economic model. (para. 3) 

Accounting professionals are recommended to keep up their skills with latest technology and evolving workplace needs.  With these skills, accountants will not only progress in their professional goals, but will be better able to service their clients and organizations at which they work.  Upskilling is about choice and opportunity—what role(s) does one seek to play in the accounting profession and which competencies are required?  While many accountants today are focused on honing skills that serve e-commerce and supply chain technologies, they will also need to learn to leverage advanced technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), in an increasingly sophisticated technological environment.   

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