How ‘radical’ changes to adult education could help the recruitment industry

Covid-19 has impacted the workplace and the jobs market in a way no-one could have predicted. Sadly, many have been made redundant and unemployment is likely to rise further once the furlough scheme has ended, despite the announcement of the Job Support Scheme.

The new scheme won’t help anyone in industries currently closed completely, such as nightclubs or live events. Rishi Sunak has admitted that the government cannot “save every job” and some of the worst-hit industries are unlikely to recover in the near future. The announcement that every adult in the UK without A-level or equivalent qualifications will be eligible for a government-funded college course is a long-term solution. It is their way of equipping those that have lost jobs in industries that are floundering to enter into new opportunities opened up as a result of the pandemic. And retraining could just be key to get the economy moving once more.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has resulted many losing their jobs, finding themselves in a talent pool that is expanding rapidly. WaveTrackR data has shown application numbers have risen to over 100% above the March-June average since the beginning of August, reaching a year-high of 204% over that average in the second week of September. This is a particular problem in industries such as travel, retail and hospitality where there are still not the jobs for those being made redundant to apply for – and those that are available are inundated with applications. This pledge to retrain millions of workers whose jobs just aren’t there anymore could be of real help to so many and will help get some of those candidates into roles that are opening up, for example in digital industries.

The reality is that the mass unemployment we are starting to see is a clear indication that jobseekers need to develop new skills and adjust their mindsets when it comes to their careers. Recruiters, too, could help by looking for transferable skills in their candidates and encouraging clients to see beyond direct experience and qualifications where possible. The courses for which funding will be available will be based on those that provide “skills valued by employers”, the full list of which will be published later this month. 

There does seem to be a disparity between the industries that are actively recruiting and those in which jobseekers are applying for jobs. Our data showed that the highest percentage of jobs posted in August were in the public sector, yet that industry didn’t make it onto the list for most popular industries when it came to applications. Education, too, featured highly for jobs posted yet didn’t make it onto the board for applications. This could partly be because there simply aren’t enough skilled workers in some industries to meet demand. Digital industries are a prime example of this. The IT and Internet sector (which also made it onto our list of industries posting the highest number of jobs) is growing at speed thanks largely to the way Covid-19 has changed the way we live and work. Tech development, implementation and maintenance needs to keep up with a changing world in which many work from home and online shopping has rapidly accelerated. 

It is looking increasingly likely that some jobs won’t return in the short term and possibly not for a very long time, if at all. However, there are new opportunities opening up that will provide job security into the future and that is where re-skilling needs to happen. If eligible jobseekers take advantage of the funded courses available to them, those new opportunities could be a viable option, whatever industry they previously worked in. The long-term hope is that vocational training will lose the stigma it has had for decades, meaning that we won’t have these sort of skills shortages. There is currently a shortage of skilled workers in a number of areas, including butchers, bricklayers and lab technicians(Boris Johnson admitted the government have had to bring in many from overseas to process Covid tests). The Migration Advisory Committee has even advised that the former two be placed on the UK’s shortage occupation list. In other words, amidst mass unemployment in the UK, we are still having to look overseas to fill certain positions. The aim is that reskilling will help jobseekers to take advantage of these available and in-demand roles.

The big issue is that the funding won’t be available until April, a year after lockdown began. This may prove too late for many and won’t do anything to help the currently growing unemployment crisis. But it is clearly needed and should ultimately help the country to recover from the economic effects of the pandemic. Helping those whose jobs have fallen away due to Covid to retrain for jobs in sectors actively recruiting and for the jobs of the future is certainly a very good start on the road to reducing unemployment. 

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