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With the coronavirus pandemic now in its seventh month and millions still working independently from home, employee demand for professional development in the soft skills is exploding.

LinkedIn, the professional networking platform, reports that time management has emerged as its most popular online course in 2020, followed by strategic thinking.

The University of British Columbia’s extended learning centre was swamped with applications when it introduced a virtual course on remote work. Almost 11,000 people had enrolled by the Oct. 13 launch date for Re-Imagine Work: Strategies During COVID 19 and Beyond.

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The University of Regina’s new “business essentials” course – which includes modules on change management in uncertain times; understanding stress and resilience; using crisis as a catalyst for process improvement and innovation – has garnered national attention, said Christie Schultz, director of the university’s centre for continuing education.

While demand for hard skills training remains high, continuing education specialists have moved rapidly to develop new programs to help Canadians work productively from home, weather the pandemic and adapt to emerging labour force needs, said Ms. Schultz, who also serves as an executive with the Canadian Association for Continuing University Education. There’s a strong interest in leadership training, as managers look for ways to improve communication, collaboration, productivity and employee well-being in their remote work teams, she said.

The ability to build resilience in the face of adversity is also critical, as organizations work through the pandemic and lay the groundwork for recovery, added Jacquie Messer-Lepage, a sessional lecturer who teaches the stress and resilience course at the University of Regina. “You have to have the mindset that you’re going to keep moving. Resilience is being able to move through difficult times and come out intact,” Ms. Messer-Lepage, executive director and registrar at the Saskatchewan College of Paramedics, said in an interview.

Ottawa-based Macadamian Inc., a software design and development company in the health-care field, has noticed a pronounced shift in the type of training its work force has been asking for, says chief operating officer Dinesh Kandanchatha.

“The trend has moved from technical skills, such as programming, to life skills, security, communication and personal development,” Mr. Kandanchatha said in an interview.

“Our work force is using training, I think, to try to cope and adjust to the reality of working from home [for an extended period].”

There is still demand for technical training, especially around cyber risk. “Our team has to be much more aware of security and internet vulnerabilities” associated with remote work, he said, but employees also feel they need stronger communication skills to overcome the lack of face-to-face interaction and want to take greater control of their own career development.

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Macadamian grants each employee $4,000 a year to spend on continuing education and development courses offered by online learning platform Udemy Inc. and LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s 20 most popular courses this year intersperse sessions on developing emotional intelligence, communicating with confidence, improving listening skills and personal branding with project management, online marketing, mastering the Microsoft Teams collaborative platform and learning the Python programming language.

“Time spent learning on LinkedIn has tripled over the past year, and the skills learned relate directly to the world we live in today,” Dan Brodnitz, head of global content strategy at LinkedIn Learning, said in releasing his recent report on the Top 20 courses.

“The pandemic has changed how we work, live, socialize – everything – and these top courses show that people have spent time learning how to be more productive remotely, create work/life balance, and communicate with virtual teams,” Mr. Brodnitz wrote.

“Skills like emotional intelligence, effective communication and critical thinking … are necessities in today’s world and workplace more than ever before.”

Time Management: Working from Home addresses the “tricky balancing act” of staying productive in the face of competing demands and disruptions.

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The course offers pointers on setting up a dedicated workspace for maximum productivity, collaborating with remote co-workers, and designing a workable daily schedule.

And for Canadian parents working alongside children engaged in virtual learning from home, Toronto-based Humber College offers homework help in the form of a new online workshop: Math for Moms and Dads (How to Tutor Your Children).

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