• 06 Mar 2020
  • SBS-ED
  • 4Min

How to improve your skills development

How to improve your skills development

As the world of business adapts to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), more and more employers are seeking out the “purple squirrel” of candidates, which Career Attraction describes as the one candidate that has the exact education, experience and qualifications that most businesses are looking for. And, with the correct workplace skills plan, that candidate could be you!

Most purple squirrels possess a combination of analytical, interpersonal and professional skills that are easily transferable from one job to another – all of which can be learnt. In fact, WorldSkills Africa 2020 is a series of programmes and a skills competition that helps empower and inspire youth across the African continent. This year, WorldSkills Africa will take place in Swakopmund, Namibia, from 25th to 31st October 2020. Namibia is a perfect host for the prestigious event, given its own ongoing transition to a knowledge-based economy.

One of the nation’s 2030 goals is to “Promote labour market efficiency by ensuring that the economy is diversified and that the labour market is aligned to the needs of industry.” This will take considerable investment from early childhood development phase up.

The private sector will inevitably play an important role in setting the skills agenda and ensuring talent is identified to be groomed for pivotal positions early on. Critical skill gaps need to be identified in advance, which will take sustained action and continuing professional development efforts from the government and corporates. It also calls for ongoing action from the individual. Young people will need to look for ongoing ways to get ahead in the digital age.

Here are some of the most essential work-related skills employees in the 4IR will need.

4 ways to improve your skills development

1. Identify your value proposition

Contrary to popular belief, the most valuable skills aren’t always the most earth shattering. According to The Startup, a challenged, stimulated brain is what sets purple squirrels apart from the rest of the pack (or scurry, if we’re being technical about collective nouns). To find your value proposition, ask yourself what sets you apart from your colleagues, what impact you (and your value) can bring to an organisation, how it can be delivered, and who cares about the value you’re able to bring.

2. Adopt an entrepreneurial mindset

This is often easier said than done, especially if you’ve been at the same job for a while. It’s important to constantly remind yourself of your organisation’s vision and then embrace any challenges that come your way.

And, when faced with a challenge, approach it from all sides, says Forbes, which may mean learning to think differently or even shaking up your daily routine so your brain is forced to approach activities in a new way.

Another essential skill is to learn to self-promote. Don’t be afraid to ‘own’ what you do well. It’s not about bragging, but rather, being confident in your value and unafraid to voice the various skills you bring to the table. People who can self-promote tend to get promoted.

3. Improve your soft skills

You know those social skills your friends are always saying make you an excellent listener and someone people want to spend time with? Those are absolute assets in the workplace, too. How, you ask? Communicating with people, influencing them to change a behaviour and convincing them of your opinion are all timeless skills that are needed in any workplace — from sales to management. So, embrace your inner social butterfly and make the most of these innate abilities.

4. Stay up to date

Basic literacy and numeracy are must-haves in most jobs; however, you can upskill in these areas, too. Try taking your knowledge of Excel spreadsheets and algorithms one step further by learning to code in your spare time or, if you’re super organised, ask your manager to sign you up for a project management course.

Companies are more commonly offering sustained staff training opportunities like online courses and workshops. Ensure you take advantage of these. These skills will stand you in good stead no matter where your career path takes you.


Keen to become a purple squirrel? USB-ED offers a course in Fundamental Business Skills that helps build the foundational work-related skills needed for business, whether you are looking to increase your employment prospects or starting your own venture.

What’s more, it provides flexibility so you can build your studies around your routine. Having a workplace skills plan is the best way to ensure you have a list of professional goals you’re working toward – and a plan for how to achieve these.

written by


- Latest Insights