1 February 2023

Closing the Gap: Skilling, Upskilling and Reskilling

By Jefferson Sim Poh Thong and Irene Chang Hui Chung

The ability for skilling, upskilling and reskilling can help us sustain any change and stay on top of life’s game, with no gaps that need closing. 

Hooray! It is 2023. A brand new year, presenting brand new opportunities for growth and success. It is still not too late to think about your new year’s resolutions if you haven’t already. After surviving all the hiatus and navigating through unprecedented times, this year should be the year of positive and impactful change.

Quoting the old English saying, “change is the only constant,” gone are the days where we can stay complacent and remain status quo. With the rapid advancement of technology and the fast adoption of the digital era, we are forced to be fast learners by being agile.

During the pandemic, most businesses including Higher Education Providers (HEPs) shifted their operations to fully online to ensure business continuity. This has completely changed the way we work and interact with each other. Besides changes such as switching to hybrid and flexible working, COVID-19 has widened the skills gap and highlighted workplace inequalities. The sentiment of employees’ training and development has shifted from a “nice to have” option to a “need to have.”

At the tertiary level, instilled in the Malaysian Qualifications Framework (MQF), lifelong learning is one of the key learning domains that graduates must have at the end of their studies. To achieve lifelong learning, having the ability to upskill and reskill are important traits.

Today, you may have heard the term “skills gap” pop up in conversations and news stories. But what is a skills gap and why is there a sudden hype around it? The skills gap refers to the difference between the skills required for the job outlined by the employer and the lacking of skills that the individual employee must perform the job. Skills gaps can emerge around hard, soft, or technical skills.

As the governing authority of the higher education sector, the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) under the purview of the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) has the direction for Malaysia to be a global education hub through the promotion of lifelong learning and flexible education. Through innovative steps implemented under the MQF, MQA has launched the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL) to provide access to flexible education and allow learners to convert their working experience for credit transfer. This is a big, bold, and progressive move for Malaysia and its higher education sector.

In addition, MQA is also aggressively promoting micro-credentials as part of the strategy to close the skills gap among employees. Micro-credentials are part of or smaller chunks of degree qualification, redesigned or repackaged in a concise yet comprehensive manner to cater to adult learners. This has managed to close the gap for many, especially in the field of information technology, whereby employees can top up their knowledge and skills in coding and data science or other new requirements in the field.

As we are embracing Industrial Revolution 4.0 (as well as Education 4.0), while preparing for Education 5.0, the expectation of learning experience and learning objectives have changed to be more competitive. This is in line with the VUCA world environment. In the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, to stay competitive and remain relevant at the workplace, employees must stay ahead of their games through continuous learning. Continuous and lifelong learning can be achieved through skilling, upskilling and reskilling.


Skilling or new skilling covers various types of continuous learning to build the foundation to upskill current capabilities or the need to build entirely new capabilities.


Upskilling is about improving existing skills and deepening the abilities and impact within the area of expertise.


Reskilling is acquiring an entirely new set of skills to prepare for a different role. This is to ensure that employees remain relevant despite their jobs or responsibilities becoming irrelevant or obsolete, often due to advances in technology.

Therefore, it is believed that with the ability to skill, upskill and reskill, we can sustain any change and stay on top of our game, leaving no gaps to be closed.

Jefferson Sim Poh Thong is an Assistant Manager and Irene Chang Hui Chung is an Executive with the Policy, Planning Quality Unit at Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus. They can be reached via email at ptsim@swinburne.edu.my  and ihcchang@swinburne.edu.my respectively.