How to use this uncertain time to develop your skills

woman learningIf you’re looking for a new job, right now, you’re probably finding it a bit of a challenge. Covid-19 has forced many employers to postpone or reduce their recruitment plans, and there’s no certainty about when things will pick up. But the good news is, there are still ways to prepare for your next opportunity.

In particular, if you’re on furlough, or not in employment right now, you could use the time to develop your skills, or learn some new ones. The training sector, like many others, has become more virtual in response to lockdown, and there are some excellent opportunities out there. Here’s our advice on how to upskill yourself.

Think about what extra skills and knowledge would make you more employable

There are a huge number of different courses and training options available, so the first thing you need to do is decide which extra skills or knowledge will be of most use.

  • Do some research into news and developments within your sector. Is there anything you ought to be able to do, that you haven’t yet mastered? Is there a new product or programme that you ought to know all about?
  • Think about your skills gaps. Are there programmes or applications that you aren’t as confident with as you would like? Would a presentation skills course help you deliver your work more confidently?
  • Consider what your next step on the career ladder might be. Is there a professional qualification that would help you progress? 
  • Think through whether retraining might be a way to get the flexibility you need. For example, there’s every indication that the IT sector will become increasingly remote-focused, so now could be a great time to learn coding, or website design. Similarly, learning book-keeping might be a route into working for a small local business.

Explore the different providers and decide which could work for you

Once you have narrowed down the kind of training you’re looking for, you need to work out the best way to access it. Many organisations offer online learning for a range of subjects and levels. You might also be able to access training and courses through universities, large employers or industry associations and bodies.

Some are free; others may come with a charge, so you’ll need to assess what budget you have available. Here are some useful places to start exploring:

  • LearnDirect offers a range of courses and qualifications to help you upgrade general skills (such as Maths) or workplace skills (such as computer literacy). It is supported by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.
  • The Open University is an expert in distanced learning, and its OpenLearn platform offers more than 1,000 free courses to help people brush up on their soft skills, and develop their skillset.

Additionally, the OU has developed a series of microcredentials, costing around £500, which allow you to gain valuable, sector-specific skills in 10-12 weeks. Subjects include accountancy, counselling, engineering, IT, management and mental health. It also offers paid-for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, supported by government loans.

  • Accenture has an online platform called FutureLearn, which is currently offering free courses in digital skills. They also offer over 650 courses from world-leading universities, covering everything from business management, IT and computer science, teaching and languages. The courses can be done in a few hours every week; most are six to ten weeks long but there are also some two and three week courses available.
  • Linkedin Learning aims to help people develop the tools they need for in-demand jobs, whether brushing up on their skills or training for a different career. It has a real variety of online courses covering topics such as business, software, creative and technology. You can try it free for a month, after which there is a monthly charge of £53.

If you use this time well, you may open up a new career, create an opportunity for progression, or simply make yourself a more attractive candidate. Either way, it won’t be time wasted.

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