Furloughed workers rush to upskill to improve employment prospects

Seven in 10 (70%) furloughed workers are concerned1 they won’t have a job this time next year – a percentage increase of 40% compared to those currently employed and working – according to new findings from social change charity Good Things Foundation.

Good Things Foundation has been funded by Google.org – the philanthropic arm of the tech company – to deliver the Make It Click programme, which forms part of the Government’s Skills Toolkit. The charity is encouraging people to take advantage of the free learning resources on offer to improve their digital know-how in the face of an uncertain future.

A nationally representative poll of over 2,000 UK adults found that only 4% of those who have been furloughed are not at all concerned about their longer-term job prospects and just under half (46%) expect to still have a job and be paid the same as before in six months’ time.

This uncertainty is making the majority (55%) of furloughed workers anxious. Many have taken steps to improve their employment prospects: 45% have already started searching or plan to search for a new role and almost seven in ten (67%) are keen to learn additional skills.

Online and IT skills top the list of work skills those furloughed want to master, with more than half (57%) thinking they are important for their future career. More than a fifth (21%) have already improved their online/IT skills since lockdown began to make them more employable and a further 23% are planning to improve them.

To help more furloughed workers and others gain valuable digital knowhow and confidence, Make It Click offers a wealth of free online learning resources. These include courses, tools and templates on a range of topics, from online job searching to social media and email. A new careers section of the site brings together support to create a CV, prepare for job interviews and present yourself online. People can visit the website at www.makeitclick.com to try things out for themselves or can get help through one of hundreds of Online Centres that support the programme.

Debra Smyth, a 33 year old single mum from Belfast, is currently furloughed from her job as an office manager for a bus tour company. Worried about her future job prospects, she has been using the Make It Click programme for a month to learn how to look for jobs online and to learn about website security. Debra said: “I can get very anxious because of the current situation, but the Make It Click courses have helped me to focus and calm the mind. It has given me a sense of purpose; it’s something I have done for me. It’s empowered me to have goals and I have started writing a blog about my experience. It’s a very user-friendly system and easy to follow. There is always something you can pick up.”

Helen Milner OBE, chief executive of Good Things Foundation said: “This is a stressful time for many people, but the uncertainty furloughed workers are facing is causing them significant stress and hardship. It’s common for people who have been in the same job or industry for some time to be comfortable using the software or digital tools they need for their current role. However, if they’re missing out on other aspects of digital know-how they’re at a huge disadvantage when job hunting, as we know 82% of all job vacancies require digital skills. While learning new things online might feel intimidating, our research shows most people pick things up quickly. Three quarters of people who had to learn new digital skills since lockdown said their overall experience had been easy.”