Graham Hunter, VP of Skills, CompTIA

It’s an unusual time to be talking about growth. The COVID-19 pandemic has rightly dominated our thought processes and news cycle for the better part of 2020, and the end appears to be nowhere in sight. It is, without question, too soon to talk about sector growth while people are still succumbing to this appalling illness and while our way of life has been infinitely disrupted.

Yet the quest for personal growth can never be understated as a means to give people -- including those who have lost their jobs and been furloughed -- hope, as well as opportunities to earn a living, learn new skills and participate in the comeback of the UK economy. Personal growth and skills development is also an effective, and even critical, tool to help those businesses that are still operating to safeguard their workers against loss and further disruption.

The deepest recession in more than three centuries

Unemployment in the UK currently is set to double, while the Bank of England predicts the economy could shrink by 14% in 2020, constituting the deepest recession in more than three centuries. Those who are still employed are being asked to do more with less; more people are being asked to perform dual functions to cover gaps in their workplaces left by those who are ill, who have succumbed to COVID-19, or have lost their job or been furloughed.

The change in our day-to-day situation has created unprecedented working circumstances, with around 44% of people now working from home (compared to 12% in 2019). Working from home brings with it new challenges around online communications protocol, internet access, cybersecurity, and the hardware itself.

Are most workers equipped to handle these challenges at their current skill level? The much-documented skills gap suggests they are not.

The Open University’s 2019 Bridging the Digital Divide report highlights the extent of digital skills gaps, with more than half of the working-age population of the UK lacking the digital skills needed in the workplace.

The opportunity to upskill and be more efficient

Yet, workers want more and better opportunities to learn on the job, and urgently, they want to make sure that they are effectively crisis-proof. Even prior to this pandemic, almost a quarter of tech professionals reported that they left their previous job for a position with greater training and development opportunities.

It’s clear that people want the opportunity to upskill and be more efficient, and now more than ever, a strong digital skillset is a cherished part of any worker’s toolkit. Around 82% of advertised job openings require some level of digital skills, and that number is almost certain to rise as digital workspaces become the norm for the foreseeable future. Last year the government told us that digital skills are “no longer optional”...and now we know that to be true without question.

How can workers upskill today when face-to-face opportunities are limited?

eLearning has long provided a strong option for anyone seeking to improve their knowledge and ability in a self-paced and highly immersive format. Videos, eBooks, workplace simulations and certifications let workers expand and prove their knowledge from home, and ultimately apply it where it matters: on the job.

When workers are given training and development opportunities, team morale is boosted as people who once shied away from tasks approach them with newly earned confidence. Efficiency and retention improve, and the overall security of the business is strengthened.

With fewer people now working, and millions working from home (many of them for the first time), it is more important than ever that each member of a team has the digital competency and know-how to carry out their most urgent business priorities in this new environment….even in spite of whatever unknowns may be in our collective future.

Graham Hunter, Vice President of Skills Certification EMEA at CompTIA

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