Written by Luke Mersey

The decision to extend the UK government’s furlough scheme for a fifth time is likely to have a profound impact upon the outlook for the UK job market as it works towards long term recovery following months of uncertainty. 

For many observers however there are reservations over the justifications for such a move, with fears that any extension will only serve to prolong the inevitability of widespread redundancies, particularly in sectors such as retail and hospitality where it appears inconceivable that a return to what was once thought of as ‘normal’, is even possible. In simple terms, would an extension to the scheme be a justifiable use of taxpayers’ money, if used to prop up jobs in industries which maybe in terminal decline already?

It also begs a more complex and challenging question, around the evolving nature of work and whether more should be done to safeguard the livelihoods of employees operating in roles which may conceivably be lost forever. Can those employees help plug some of the skills gaps which have existed in many sectors for so long and more importantly do they have the confidence and know how to change career path even if they wanted to?

Recent surveys have found that a third of vacancies in the UK are hard to fill, with nurses, computer programmers, medical practitioners and welfare, care and housing associates all in high demand but limited supply. The government would certainly seem to have a role to play in helping and incentivizing employees to plug these holes, but so can businesses by providing the necessary support to help employees develop their skills and find new roles when necessary. 

Whilst many technical and highly skilled positions will inevitably require some form of formalised training, other roles can be filled more easily by employees with the existing capabilities already. However, helping employees to better understand their existing skills and the relevance of past experiences and achievements, is often easier said than done, particularly for those people who find themselves out of work for the first time in years and faced with a job market which feels alien and unconquerable. 

An increasing number of responsible employers are looking to find ways of helping their employees to think through their next career steps, whatever they might be. With support, employees can be empowered to reposition themselves effectively and to identify core and transferrable skills such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and leadership to help make alternative career choices which they may not have previously considered or had otherwise thought were unrealistic. It’s also helpful for people to understand a career change they may not have considered – or thought possible – before, alongside self-employment, starting a new business, consultancy work, contracting, career downsizing or managing a portfolio career.

This support not only helps individual to guard against an otherwise uncertain employment future, it also goes some way to helping bridge the skills gaps which continue to exist and provides employers with powerful goodwill. In a world in which Covid-19 has prompted more career questions than answers, that support can prove crucial.

About the author

Luke Mersey is Account Director for London and South East at Renovo, the UK’s leading outplacement service specialist, working with hundreds of companies across 30 sectors, helping their employees during transition. It helps thousands of people to return to work twice as fast as the national industry average.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.