Cheap and free ways boost your future job prospects as furlough ends

Halloween this year really could be grave for many businesses and employees as it signals the end of the furlough scheme.

Instead, the UK will move into the next stage of its pandemic survival plan, with the job support scheme. However, it’s estimated that almost one in 10 people are still furloughed and that not everyone will be moved onto the new scheme, which requires more support from employers.

Unemployment rose sharply in August, suggesting that job losses may be gathering pace ahead of the end of furlough and many jobs are being lost in industries that are struggling to cope with the restrictions.

However, in some sectors jobs are being created as companies expand and adapt to meet new consumer behaviours and demands.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), has called for more to be done to provide training support to British workers.  

She said: “Ensuring people can adapt to the changing world of work will be one of the most important missions this country embarks on in the next decade. The economic impact of Covid-19 makes starting now only more urgent.

“Jobs were already changing with nine out of ten employees needing to re-skill over the next decade. The pandemic has accelerated the need to act now.”

But you don’t need to wait for the government to act to re-skill and retrain in a hurry. Here’s how to make it as cost-effective as possible.

Make the most of Covid-19 opportunities

The words “Covid-19” and “opportunity” don’t obviously go together but the current crisis has focused government minds on the need to help workers who are struggling to find work with their current academic background.

From next April, the National Skills Fund will pay for adults in England without an A-Level or equivalent to complete a college course. We are still waiting to hear what courses may be offered through this scheme but the plan is that they will give workers skills that employers are looking for.

If you don’t qualify then now is a good time to look at other options for funding further education.

Look at grants and schemes

There may be support you can access that does not need to be paid back so putting in some research can really pay dividends.  

For example, if you’re looking at retraining to work within the NHS then you may be able to apply for an NHS bursary. There are also bursary schemes for social work and teacher training.

You can search online for sector-specific support. One good example is the City & Guilds Foundation, which has a range of bursaries available to people who want to train in specific areas.

If you’re planning to return to university then that may mean turning to student finance for support as you retrain.

Perhaps the last thing most people want to do in the current uncertainty is to get into debt but sometimes it is worth it for the longer-term financial security.

And if you decide to look at a university course with fees then it’s important to remember that it’s not a normal debt, you pay it back based on how much you earn rather than how much you borrow.

Find out what benefits you will qualify for as you train

If you’re considering retraining then it’s important to understand what additional support you may be entitled to while you study, such as benefits or help with childcare costs.

The charity Turn 2 Us has a search tool for grants but will also be able to help you understand what benefits you might receive or how retraining might affect your benefits.

Increase your computing skills

Some people may find that a lack of computing skills leaves them at a disadvantage both when it comes to the kind of jobs they are qualified for but also for simply searching for jobs.

While they may not necessarily be reading this online article, there is help on offer. The Online Centres Network connects people with local centres that can help train them in online skills.

Not all their centres are open during Covid-19 but they may be able to point people who need training at the most suitable resources.

Seek some support

If you aren’t sure what the next step should be for you then now is a good time to access some of the help available.

There may be support available via your local college or council but there’s also national help on offer. For example, in England there’s the National Careers Service; in Scotland you can access support through Skills Development Scotland; in Wales its Careers Wales or Gyrfa Cymru and in Northern Ireland you can chat to a careers adviser.  

Most of those support websites include training opportunities, career guidance and helplines. It’s there to help people in exactly your situation so make use of it.  

For example, the National Careers Service provides a Skills Toolkit section, which outlines a series of free courses that can help you develop your skills, including in areas like bookkeeping, sales and digital marketing.

Some of these take just a few hours but can add to your understanding and also serve as a bit of a taster – if you’re wondering whether a longer course is right for you then taking a short dip into training in that field might help you decide.

Losing your job or feeling insecure in your workplace is unnerving and can increase financial anxiety. But there are many positive steps you can take right now to boost your prospects. Good luck!

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