UK workers can and are encouraged to train during their furlough
According to the government advice last updated on June 15th, “Furloughed employees can engage in training during hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation. Furloughed employees should be encouraged to undertake training.”
Despite economic challenges, course booking inquiries have gone up 66% year on year for findcourses.co.uk during April and May from 3,800 to 6,300.
Furloughed employees now make up over one quarter of the workforce. Employees cite an increased amount of time and a desire to show value to their current and future employers as their primary reasons for wanting to skill-up during this time.
‘’If I don’t focus on upskilling & re-skilling in an area related to my profession, I’ll become obsolete or just irrelevant.’’*
‘’It has become essential to me to learn new skills to become financially stable.’’
What kind of training are people booking while on furlough?
The UK economy has been hard-hit by the pandemic, shrinking by around 20% during the first month of lockdown. This has had a knock-on effect for individual training buyers, with almost 6 in 10 saying that their financial security has decreased since the pandemic. As a result, we’re finding that the average course value has decreased to reflect this increasingly cost-sensitive outlook, from £670 in April-May 2019 to £243 in April-May 2020.
These financial pressures aren’t just a reality for individuals who are furloughed. They’re also impacting the organisations who have taken furlough measures due to lack of funding.
Furlough and its impact on skills gaps
Pre-COVID-19, one third of businesses believed that they were already not equipped to address skills gaps in their organisations. In the energy and utility sector alone, 221,000 recruits are needed in the next 10 years to take over from the ageing workforce.
Furloughing has exacerbated the skills-gap issue. With swathes of employees on furlough - 8.9 million jobs from 1.1 million different employers, businesses are finding themselves scrambling to up-skill or re-skill the employees to cover the gaps - which may only be widened with the expected redundancies expected after October 31st.
As business owners and leaders begin to forecast their personnel shortages, we are seeing an increase in the number of searches to cross-train employees. The training they are seeking typically looks to encourage basic digital skills or provide an entry to cross-training individuals who upon return from furlough will be taking over some of the responsibilities of their redundant colleagues such as payroll, team management, customer service or tasks requiring Excel skills.
For individuals currently on furlough, the training picture is somewhat different.
‘’I need to reinvent myself or face unemployment.’’
Meanwhile self-funded employees on furlough are either exploring a career-change into an entry-level field or investing in certifications to out-compete their colleagues in their existing field which has become a highly competitive environment.
What can training providers do?
For training providers looking to help address skills gaps in furloughed employees, consider:
Reaching out to past corporate clients to learn about their current and predicted skills gaps.
A focus on qualifications and existing skills gaps which could make employability more challenging for them for self-funded furloughed individuals.
Cost-sensitivity’s influence on decision-making. Address issues creatively with solutions like bite-sized learning offerings of current courses, reduced rates for virtual training, and flexible payment offers if possible.
What can colleges do?
Colleges looking to help furloughed employees re-skill should consider:
Offering up-to-date information to prospective students on changing growth outlooks for different industries.
Disseminating information about how furloughed employees can still be apprenticed to individuals and organisations.
Providing information about face-to-face reopenings in a social distancing environment.
*All quotes taken from latest survey sendouts of findcourses.co.uk’s COVID-19 and Learning survey.