Some Northern Nevada workers, battered by a pandemic that has devastated the labor market and reshaped the workplace, are questioning whether to stick with their occupation or start an entirely new career. Many are strengthening existing skills or resetting priorities such as which industry they work in, where they work or their job title. Others are taking classes to add new expertise and reinvent themselves in completely different fields. Whether staying put or starting over, potential employers are likely to award flexibility and adaptability when deciding on new hires. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report published in October, 94% of business leaders surveyed expect employees to pick up new skills on the job, compared with 65% in 2018. The report projects that by 2025, “44% of the skills that employees will need to perform their roles effectively will change.” This is why Nevadaworks, the Northern Nevada workforce development board, spearheaded an initiative last year to help workers enhance their skills and pandemic-proof their careers. SkillUp Northern Nevada provides residents with access to more than 5,000 online classes and 100 different certification programs in 13 counties: Carson City, Churchill, Douglas, Elko, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Pershing, Storey, Washoe and White Pine. The best part: It’s free. “We wanted to provide to those individuals out of the workforce and trying to enter it — or those in the workforce and wanting to improve their employability skills or their employment position — an opportunity to take classes and certification curriculum to help them along that path,” John Thurman, CEO of Nevadaworks, told the NNBW. “So that we can bring a more prepared workforce to the employers of Northern Nevada.” Course topics include customer service, retail, finance, manufacturing, information technology and more. The most popular classes, Thurman said, include project management, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, HIPAA, human resources, accounting, food industry standards, leadership and team building. SkillUp uses the Metrix eLearning system, an online training platform that assesses interests and skill gaps, and SkillSoft, a global leader in eLearning and online training. Northern Nevadans can take a variety of free courses that teach both soft skills and technical skills “whenever it works for them,” and at their own pace, Thurman said. “They don’t have to enroll with a certain cohort or at a certain time of year, they don’t have to take the class during certain specific time,” he noted. “So, it lets the individual absolutely customize the training times and the length of time to their own needs.” SkillUp is available for anyone in the 13 counties regardless of whether they have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, Thurman said. As of Feb. 23, roughly 400 Northern Nevadans have used the program, which has been available for roughly a year. Notably, Thurman said he anticipated that number would be closer to 1,200 by now. “What we have found … is that we have an increasing number of job openings and we have a decreasing number of people in the workforce,” Thurman said. “And that’s simply because people are choosing not to go into the workforce for a number of reasons. It could be to stay home with children who are not in the classroom, it could be out of fear of COVID, and it could be those who were displaced because of COVID and their industry was so negatively impacted. “… The people in that last group are the ones we want to target the most. Many of them may not have the same career to go back to and they may need additional or different skills in order to take up the next job in their future.” SkillUp Northern Nevada is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The program, Thurman said, costs about $25,000 per year to fund. Visit nevadaworks.com to learn more.