How to upskill or retrain during the coronavirus crisis


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With almost 600,000 Australians losing their jobs in April, and a further 600,000 seeing their hours cut, it could be time to upskill or retrain to improve your employment prospects.

Nicole Scoble-Williams, Future of Work partner at Deloitte, says more than half the organisations she talks to thinks that between half and all of their workforce will need re-skilling in the next three years to adapt to the future of work.

The Government released a higher education package in April which included a range of short, online courses from universities and private providers to help Australians retrain.

coronavirus adult retraining

Due to run for six months from May, the package was designed to help those who were looking to retrain in national priority industries including nursing, teaching, counseling and allied health.

Courses are heavily discounted and eligible students can defer payments through HECS-HELP.

TAFE NSW is also offering a number of fee-free short courses for eligible students to gain practical skills in areas including administration, health and medicine, leadership, and business.

Many large companies have a training budget to help people they have retrenched, while some businesses offer extra training as part of your employment. Now may be a good time to find out what extra training you can access.

When thinking about changing careers it's important to take into account emerging essential roles, says Tina Monk from Sydney Career Coaching.

"Emerging fields in tele-health and internet-based services are expected to rise in the coming months with growing demand for diversified means of communication and data exchange."

Online services such as e-commerce and online teaching are also expected to grow, she says.

She points to increasing job demand in supermarkets and computer software design, and as nannies and tutors.

Physical jobs also on the upsurge are mining and resources, trades and services, healthcare and medical, engineering and science and technology, she says.

Hays Australia and NZ managing director of recruiting Nick Deligiannis says now is a good time to upskill as it will put you in a stronger position for future opportunities in a post-COVID-19 world.

"Once this crisis is over, it'll be those people who took proactive steps to boost their skills who will come out the other side in the best position," he says.

Even today, Hays is seeing demand for nurses and support workers, procurement and logistics staff, transport and delivery drivers, and roles in manufacturing in FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.

"Supermarkets still need people for customer service and shelf-stocking roles, and there's a big need in soft services for cleaners," Deligiannis says.

"Telephone-based hotline call centre professionals are also sought after right now. The re-shoring of call centres back to Australia is further adding to demand.

"IT is another active area to support workforces that are operating remotely.

"Mining remains an area of continued high demand."

If you find yourself with free time while self-isolating, here is what Deligiannis recommends:

  • Schedule some time in your calendar to access online resources that your employer has made available to you. Employees who regularly undertake training and development are frequently higher-performing, more productive, more innovative and more satisfied.
  • Listen to podcasts, you can always find a podcast on any topic and they are almost always free. What's more, they're great to have on in the background while you're at home.
  • Attend virtual events, conferences and webinars to help learn new skills as well as to help you to adjust to a way of learning, networking and collaborating that is likely to become a 'new normal' well beyond COVID-19.
  • Keep in touch with your mentor virtually via video conferencing software or  perhaps phone or email and continue to nurture your  existing relationship
  • Take an online course on a topic relevant to you.

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Julia Newbould was editor-at-large and later managing editor of Money from November 2019 to February 2022. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.

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