The view from the President: The reskilling imperative

CIMA President Steven Swientozielskyj, FCMA, CGMA

I am passionate about learning. That passion stems from my early days when I studied at university in Manchester and chose the CIMA path, which has been the backbone of my professional life.

I always had a desire to study and understand beyond CPD requirements. I have written extensively and created courses and webinars on business partnering and shared services. I also lecture in the UK and internationally.

On a personal level, learning has also been a constant thread throughout my life.

Learning has changed fundamentally since I studied the CIMA exams in the 1970s, with technology driving much of that change. The way our students study and are examined has also changed — the introduction of on-demand courses and testing that give students greater flexibility was a great leap forward for broadening our reach.

In its recent The Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum (WEF) talks of “a reskilling imperative” and that by 2022 “no less than 54% of all employees will require significant reskilling and upskilling”. Of these, the WEF expects that 35% will need up to six months extra training, 9% between six and 12 months training, and 10% more than a year.

There will also be a switch in how skills are learned. On-the-job learning will become more important — two-thirds of companies expect workers to adapt and pick up skills in the course of their changing roles, the WEF said. The 70:20:10 model is useful here — with the majority of learning (70%) done informally on the job, 20% done peer-to-peer, and only 10% done formally.

A further WEF finding is that two-fifths of employers are set to focus their reskilling resources on high-performing employees. That means that those who most need reskilling and upskilling will be least likely to receive that training. Employers will also look to freelancers and consultants to fill their skills gaps. It is therefore imperative that people invest in their own development.

Technology, of course, is part of our new skillset — we will need to stay ahead on blockchain, data analytics, robotics, data visualisation, and more. However, our people skills will increasingly be in demand.

Learning is not a one-off event. It is also not a ladder, extending from school years, but rather a circle — of learning, then unlearning what has become out of date, and then relearning the new skills that the workplace demands.

In a way like never before, what we learn today will likely be out of date in just a few years. From this, it follows that we need to be constantly assessing and re-inventing our skills. Our Association delivers a wide range of learning for its members, including a new range of Go Beyond Disruption podcasts and a set of Human Intelligence videos. They can be found at, and I commend them to you.

When I became president, I set out to champion our Future of Finance research and this, our centenary year. In my next column — in February — I will highlight what reaching that 100-year mark means to us as we respect our heritage, move forward, and embrace our future.

If you would like to comment on these important issues I have raised, please get in touch at

Finally, I believe learning is fundamental to who we are — as management accountants and as people. It should also be lifelong. As Albert Einstein put it succinctly: “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”