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5 Million Workers Uncertain of Post-Covid Role

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• A quarter (24%) of the UK workforce are learning new skills to mitigate against coronavirus uncertainty 
Concerns for job security as 5 million expect the pandemic to dramatically change their role
Younger employees are spearheading the distance learning boom, but want more direction from employers in bid to ensure their skills become valued assets
Course enrolments during lockdown on The Open University’s OpenLearn platform have exceeded 950,000
OU is urging organisations to harness this appetite for learning to adapt for the future and retain valuable talent

Covid-19 is expected to significantly change the skills required for as many as 5 million job roles across the UK, driving a surge in employees seeking out distance learning opportunities, according to The Open University

With coronavirus uncertainty affecting half (49%) of current job roles across the UK, a quarter (24%) of employees have taken on additional learning opportunities to boost their employability and protect the value of their skills.

The results suggest that younger employees are particularly fearful that their skills could become obsolete. Over a third (39%) of 18-34 year-olds agreed that they would put their own money towards development opportunities if it made them more employable. 

However, for all the hunger for professional development, a quarter of employees (23%) admitted that they would like to have more direction from their employers when it comes to learning new skills, with younger team members again (38%) the most keen to have steer from their leaders on how to remain employable post-coronavirus.

OpenLearn homepage screengrabData from one of the UK’s largest free learning sites, The Open University’s OpenLearn, backs up the findings. The site has logged over 950,000 course enrolments during lockdown, taking it beyond the 3.25 million mark since its launch. Specialist work-focused courses such as Leadership and Followership have proved particularly popular, in addition to modules designed to boost fundamental professional skills such as workplace communication.

In April, the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland launched a portal with the support of the OU in Scotland in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support furloughed workers. The site on www.myworldofwork.co.uk was launched on 27 April by the First Minister in her daily televised COVID-19 briefing.

Across the board workers are investing in ever-green capabilities that will help them retain value to their employers in the long-term, as well as skills that will help them manage the current digital landscape. The majority of those who have taken on additional learning opportunities during lockdown have focused on developing managerial skills (51%), whilst just under a quarter (23%) have prioritised digital skills such as learning how to use new software.

While the OU welcomes this rise in independent study, the university is urging employers to make the most of the appetite for new skills development and utilise the advantages of online learning for remote employees, to cultivate the skills they are likely to require in the years to come. 

Susan Stewart, Director of The Open University in Scotland said:

“With the UK approaching a recession and the economic uncertainty that this will bring - the time to invest in skills is now. The world of work is changing and it’s clear that employees are recognising this and prioritising the development of their own skill sets to prepare for the ‘new normal’.

“With OpenLearn, employees can enrol on free courses that reward them with certificates and digital badges, helping them signpost their development and the value of their skills to their employers.

“Employees will still need direction from their employer if they are to acquire the new skills needed for post-lockdown business. Employers must embrace lifelong learning as a necessity for growth and ensure that teams stay engaged, potential skills gaps are tackled proactively and the associated risk of losing valuable talent is minimised.”

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