With some semblance of normality on the horizon, how can providers and employers bridge the gap between a break in learning or work and a return to the classroom or workplace?
For many people, the lockdown has meant a considerable break in normal life. Whether that is having been furloughed and unable to work, a break in learning where students have been unable to enter education facilities, or a curtailment of an apprenticeship.
The impact on the UK economy
In June, it was reported that the UK economy had shrank by 10.4% in the three months leading up to April. In April, the worst of the economic shrinkage was reported as GDP fell by 20.4%.
There has been a significant impact across many sectors, including tourism, hospitality and retail, for which the recovery will be difficult and protracted, for how long, we do not yet know.
The timing of the lockdown and coronavirus was, to put it mildly, unfortunate for many businesses, such as retailers. The Great British high street was already under threat as people’s shopping habits had begun to change pre-lockdown, meaning that it was cracking at its foundations. We’ve seen reports already about businesses which will not open their doors to patrons after lockdown.
Prior to lockdown, the UK enjoyed a period of relative stability and the employment rate was at a record high. The combative measures taken by the government in the face of a huge employment crisis, such as the furlough scheme and support for independent businesses, means that we are unable to predict the economic fallout until these schemes come to a close in October. However, the prognosis by the media is predictably bleak, with job losses thought to be unavoidable.
It doesn’t make for an easy read but this has been one of the most testing times across the all intersections of life. It’s important to recognise the difficulties many people have faced, not only job losses, but the loss of friends and family, other health repercussions and many other indirect implications of an extremely difficult period.
On a human level, it has been a humbling experience. If you have been affected negatively, as so many people have, you truly have my deepest sympathy and empathy as we have all been in this together.
Planning for economic recovery
As we tentatively peer above the parapet towards new beginnings, there are some opportunities in the post-coronavirus landscape.
Innovation has come to the forefront of many businesses plans for the future. The digital revolution has taken hold of even the most laggard-like organisations and tech-averse employees who have had to quickly adapt and innovate to survive. These skills, although ill-begotten in the circumstances, are incredibly valuable. Once gained, cannot be forgotten and, with the ability to work remotely realised, high rents, running costs and overheads of a central office may no longer be viable for many organisations and a continued roll out of home working in the long-term is an easy way to cut their cloth, save vital jobs and perhaps create more to cope with new demands.
Other businesses which have been afforded a period of new found or increase in respect and attention are health, social care, essential retailers and logistics and distribution. Those who have kept our country running and to those who we will always be in debt for their service.
For retail and distribution, new skills such as infection control, an increased level of health and safety, an enhanced customer experience that puts personal safety at the forefront of each interaction mean that we need new experts in these fields. There will be many people who are reluctant to return to bustling shops and high streets which will increase the pressure on logistics to not only keep things running smoothly, but which offer an exceptional experience to those who will largely consume goods and services from home.
Reintegration into the workplace or education
The skills people have had to develop and put to use during lockdown are key employability skills that are transferable across any industry. These skills, such as communication, creativity, resilience, motivation and intuition, can inform and improve every domain of life and govern your ability to improve other skills.
We’ll need creative minds to look at the road ahead and innovate and develop the solutions we need to recover and, eventually, to grow and prosper. Employers must ensure there are clear lines of communication and the infrastructure to support it to bring people together and unite us, regardless of our physically proximity.
Personal motivation and the ability to take initiative when face to face interactions are scarce will be essential to productivity. On an emotional level, our resilience, already tested but the potential to be tried further still as we emerge from lockdown, will be key to ensuring that employees, learners, businesses and all sections of society have the capacity to endure the road ahead as we repair, build and grow our economy.
Take the employability skills test
To test these essential skills, and others, explore our employability skills test, Skills Work. A diagnostic tool to measure an individual’s existing knowledge and competency across key topics and will support learners and employees to upskill in areas that require further development and enhancement with and individual learning plan.