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Employees upskilling from home during pandemic

A quarter (24%) of the UK workforce are learning new skills to guard against coronavirus uncertainty, according to The Open University

UK workers have particularly focused on improving work-related skills.

According to The Open University’s data, the majority of those who have taken up additional learning opportunities during lockdown have worked on developing managerial skills (51%) or building digital skills (23%).

Younger employees have been particularly proactive, with over a third (39%) of 18-34 year-olds in The Open University’s study agreeing that they would put their own money towards development opportunities if it made them more employable, the most of any age category.

"When we're through the pandemic we expect to see much more emphasis on flexible working, so making sure people have the right skills, technology and wellbeing support will be crucial,” Carol Stubbings, joint global leader for people and organisation at PwC, told HR magazine.

“While it’s clear that digital skills are of huge importance at this challenging time and we’ve all had to embrace technology, inherently human skills such as resilience, adaptability, empathy, creativity and critical thinking are proving to be just as important too."

The findings also reflect mass job uncertainty following the coronavirus pandemic, as 14% of UK workers in The Open University survey said they expect the pandemic to dramatically change their roles - equivalent to around five million employees.

The figures reflect a similar poll commissioned by Pearson around the same time, which found that 56% of 18-35 year-olds and 37% of those aged 36-54 have taken to developing their skills at home.

Pearson’s study found that Google searches for online courses are up by 300% since the lockdown began.

Sixty eight per cent of those aged 18-35 said they were concerned about losing their job, as did 55% of those aged 36-54.

Men were on average more concerned (64%) about losing their job than women (49%).

For Susan McGuire, a former HR director, these concerns are reflective of a collective feeling that the crisis "has left many of us feeling our respective rugs have been pulled from under our feet."

She told HR magazine: “It’s only natural that both employees and employers will start to look at, and secure alternative options for the way we work and live.

“HR and talent development teams have a major role to play in redefining our talent requirements for the new world and should be starting this thinking now together with their respective business partners and boards.

“The government should also use this opportunity to rethink the apprenticeship levy but also offer financial support to young people coming into the job market to assess and if necessary improve their readiness for a very different workplace.”