Two thirds of workers retrain to find new jobs during pandemic

James Reed, Chairman –

New research of 1,521 workers by, the UK’s leading job site, has found that two thirds of workers (66%) completed online courses to learn new skills in 2020 and improve their job prospects. The results demonstrate the dynamism and flexibility of the UK labour market in light of the pandemic’s impact on the economy.

The data also reveals that younger generations are most likely to seek training opportunities, with almost three quarters (71%) of 16–34-year-olds completing a course compared to only 57% of over 45s. And of those who have taken online courses across all age groups, almost all (93%) plan to use these new skills to find work.

There’s also a feeling of optimism amongst jobseekers as we entered the new year. Almost two thirds (61%) of respondents who were made redundant in 2020 feel hopeful their role will return this year, including 38% who are “very hopeful”. This is particularly true of 25-44 year olds (67%). Additionally, over half (51%) of those furloughed during the pandemic don’t believe their employability has been impacted.

In comparison to pre-pandemic where 58% of the courses had been taken by women, observed a recent shift with men taking 50% of the courses in November-December 2020.

Overall, the most popular courses during this period include ‘Essential IT Skills Level 2’ with 7,813 students, followed by ‘Business and Administration Level 2’ (5,271) and ‘Level 2 Certificate in Counselling Skills’ (4,005). The courses with the greatest annual increases include ‘Leadership & Management’ rising 3,074% year-on-year, followed by ‘British Sign Language (BSL) Level 1 & 2’ (1894%) and ‘Office Admin and Reception Skills’ (904%), suggesting workers are preparing for a return to the office and practising more specialist skills to differentiate their CVs from competitor candidates.

James Reed, Chairman of REED, comments: “It’s encouraging to see that so many workers are upskilling and/or reskilling in response to the challenges posed by the pandemic. As the vaccine roll-out gathers pace and the economy starts to reopen, these extra skills will prove crucial to improving people’s job prospects – especially in such a competitive jobs market.

“After a difficult year, the economy continues to face some familiar challenges. But jobseekers have shown great flexibility, dynamism and resilience in tough conditions, and their proactive approach to learning new skills is another encouraging sign.

“I would urge others looking for jobs to consider how they too can enhance their skills, especially when many of the Reed courses are free or low cost. Doing so can help you open the door to opportunities in both existing sectors and new ones created by the pandemic – such as vaccinator, one of the almost 1,000 COVID related jobs currently available on Or alternatively upskilling could help you to secure a promotion or a pay rise.

“There is hope that the economic recovery is underway and will gather pace over the next few months. Make sure you’re ready for when the right job becomes available.”

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