Collaboration is key for post-Covid skills challenge


Employers, education and industry need to come together to support the rebuilding of skills
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Financial support has been a lifeline for many employers as a way to avoid potential redundancy. But training is going to become ever more important. How can organisations reskill their workforces as the economy changes? Vikki Bradney Spencer explains.

The world has changed an incredible amount in a short space of time as the Covid-19 pandemic has taken hold across the globe. In the UK, the need to reskill the countries workforce has been given extra urgency by the events of the past few months.

The uncertainty and disruption brought about by the pandemic and an increasingly competitive jobs market have created new challenges for people across the country. As a result, rising numbers are trying to retrain and move into new industries.

Businesses have been affected, too, including small to medium-sized enterprises, which have needed to quickly introduce new digital capabilities to ensure their survival.

Considering there are nearly 6 million SMEs in the UK, accounting for 50% of the total revenue generated by UK businesses and 44% of the country’s labour force, the impact has been felt far and wide.

The speed with which these new digital tools are changing our working environments is driving the demand for associated digital skillsets. The size of the issue was made clear by the IBM Institute of Business Value 2019 Study, which forecasted that more 2 million people in the UK will need to retrain by 2022.

Skills challenge

Worryingly, the skills shortage shows little sign of easing up and the pressure is therefore on organisations to actively address the challenge both now and for the future. Closing the skills gap will require collaboration across ecosystems that span industry, education and government.

The government has already announced a number of packages to help those who face unemployment due to the pandemic to reskill. And this week City & Guilds called for the government to take a more regional approach to funding for skills.

Large employers are getting involved too. IBM has launched the SkillsBuild Reignite platform with partners including Open University, Institute of Directors, Jones Day, Social Enterprise UK and MSDUK so users can benefit from a wide range of online coaching and learning.

The platform will provide job seekers and entrepreneurs with access to free online coursework and mentoring support designed to help them develop the technical and professional skills needed to reinvent their careers and businesses.

Job seekers, individual business owners, entrepreneurs and any individual with learning aspirations can now tap into more than 400 learning activities with industry-relevant content on topics including artificial intelligence, cloud, data analytics and security as well as essential and professional and digital skills. The type and number of learning activities are growing daily.

Focus on recovery

Small and medium-sized businesses will also benefit from coursework and personalised coaching and entrepreneurs can seek advice to help establish or restart their businesses as they begin to focus on recovery.

Courses for small business owners include financial management, business strategy, digital strategy, legal support and more. Plus, IBM and partner volunteers will serve as mentors to help reinvigorate local communities.

SkillsBuild Reignite builds on the existing SkillsBuild platform, which was launched in the UK towards the end of 2019. Since then more than 2,300 learning activities have been completed. SkillsBuild Reignite expands this offering and is open to any person or small and medium-sized business, free of charge, for registration.

Bridging the skills gap and gaining the digital abilities required by today’s businesses has never been easier.

We know that we are in a pandemic that is set to continue having a great impact on our whole society as people continue navigating new ways of working.

Prioritising skills building for job seekers and improving the skills base of business owners will help set both individuals and companies up for success in a fast-moving and ever-changing market across a multitude of industries.

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