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Here’s where to turn for career advice during the pandemic

These charities and organisations offer everything from free training, work experience, cv-writing help and career advice to those on furlough or worrying about their job prospects
Norris was injured by an RPG while serving in Afghanistan but has found new work through The Poppy Factory since. Image: The Poppy Factory

We don’t have a true picture of how Covid-19 will impact the economy and jobs yet, but many are searching for career advice ahead of what could be a difficult autumn. There are still 4.2 million people on furlough, their positions temporarily on ice. The scheme is due to come to an end in September, but it’s not clear how many people will return to full-time roles.

A new report already demonstrates how this year has changed the fortunes of both older and younger workers disproportionately and looks to be creating a “U-shaped” employment shock.

There has been the biggest annual fall in employment for older workers aged over 50 since the 1980s, according to research by the Resolution Foundation. Workers under 25 have lost jobs at an even quicker rate.

The Big Issue launched its Ride Out Recession Alliance to offer practical steps and solutions to help people remain in employment through this turbulent era, and prevent families losing their homes.

We are working with a group of organisations, charities and companies, doing their utmost to help people navigate the economic consequences of Covid. They are teed up ready to support those who may not return to work after furlough, or face redundancy in the coming weeks and months.

Here is what some of these partners are offering and how they might be able to help you navigate your way out of the pandemic.

Career advice for young people

“As youth employment specialists the work we do has never been more important,” says Lauren Mistry, operations director of social enterprise Youth Employment UK.

“Young people tell us that they do not feel confident about their futures and do not know how to access support. We are hearing from young people that they are anxious about their next steps, they recognise that they have not had the opportunity to build skills and experiences in the last 12 months and now there are less opportunities for them available in a more competitive landscape.”

Since the start of the first lockdown Youth Employment UK, which offers free online courses for those aged 14-24, on everything from how to plan the career you want, to developing leadership, teamwork and creativity, with certificates at the end to add to your CV, has doubled the content and support it is making available. This includes a new, free virtual work experience programme, flagging placements that you can complete online at businesses such as Spotify.

It also wants to encourage employers to understand how to provide quality opportunities for young people through its Good Youth Employment Charter.

Career advice for those who want a change in direction 

A job for life is no longer the norm, believes Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of City & Guilds Group, “yet we know from our research that many people are worried about starting again and lack the knowledge of other industries needed to switch careers.”

To this end, City & Guilds has launched Skills Bridges, courses that, using employer insight, help people “unlock the potential of their transferable skills”, highlighting what your strengths are and how they could apply to a new industry, and get a foot in the door in an area you might not have considered before.

Its “Step into” courses, for example, are focused on areas where City & Guilds know there is real opportunity to find work despite Covid-19, including social care, construction, and digital technologies. You can search the courses at FutureLearn.com, the social learning platform.

Career advice for veterans 

There are employment opportunities opening up for veterans, believes Deirdre Mills, chief executive of The Poppy Factory. “When Covid-19 started, we quickly adapted our employment support service.  We have been able to support hundreds of ex-Forces men and women into work over the last 12 months.”

That includes Norris, 34, who was injured in Afghanistan by a rocket-propelled grenade. “In the civilian world I didn’t have many options, and I didn’t have time to sort out a proper transition from the army,” says Norris.  “I was trying my hardest to get a job. I worked in a few different places. People would always ask nasty questions about the experiences I’d had while serving, and I felt they would look down on me. Sometimes in job interviews, when people find out you’re a veteran, they don’t want to employ you. They think you might lose control, or that you’re a time bomb waiting to go off. But it’s not like that.”

The Poppy Factory has employment consultants across the UK which give one-to-one support, over the phone, email or via video-calls during lockdown, to help veterans research and apply for jobs in their region. They then give ongoing support once the veteran has started a job. For example, Jane, helped Norris build up his CV, making it clear what skills he had and he has found work throughout the pandemic with telecommunications firm Ociusnet, improving digital connections in the West Midlands.

Other veterans have found work during Covid-19 with the Ambulance service, for example.

Veterans with physical or mental health conditions who would like employment support can register at poppyfactory.org/employment

Training and advice for those in hospitality

Hospitality recruitment is moving at pace now that bars, restaurants, hotels and pubs are reopening. Springboard to 2022 is the industry solution to tackling hospitality, leisure and tourism’s long-term staffing crisis.

Its goal is to have 10,000 young people trained and ready to work, in line with the industry’s Coronavirus recovery, by 2022.

Programmes offer qualifications recognised by the hospitality industry, such as food safety certificates, and include one-to-one mentoring, and e-learning modules.

Springboard’s digital hospitality academy, for example, has free courses, some supported by partners such as Diageo, the drinks company. There’s a bartending course, with 20 modules for you to do at home on making cocktails, front of house customer service, and the opportunity to have your CV reviewed by the team at Diageo.

CV-writing and interview skills 

As lockdown ends the Northampton Hope Centre, a charity that works to tackle the most acute problems of disadvantage, including homelessness, addiction and mental health, is pushing out its Learning4Living program. This offers courses for those who are unable to access the job market at the moment because of Covid, including CV writing, interview skills, confidence in presentation, and how to make the most of social media.

There is also training in horticulture for those looking to develop a career and new skills, grow your own courses to get started at home, and the Hope Tools, teaching people to recycle and refurbish broken garden tools into products for sale, for those who need work experience.

You can refer someone at  northamptonhopecentre.org.uk/learning-for-living-referral-form/

Help towards a career in the environment 

Groundwork is a federation of charities focused on practical community action on poverty and the environment. During Covid many of the thousands of projects it supports have turned to how to help people back  into work and be at the forefront of a new green economy.

Its Natural Neighbourhoods project, for example, helps young people in disadvantaged areas of the Midlands and the North that have been disproportionately affected by lockdown, towards employment. Teams work to enhance parks and green spaces that matter to local communities.

It’s Kickstart scheme is open to hundreds of young people who are looking for their first jobs in community and environmental work.

Free online training

If you’re looking to change careers, get a promotion, or enhance academic studies, there are a growing number of online courses, many free, a lot of which offer a qualification or accreditation. Learnisa is a hub for searching what is on offer, posting over 40,000 online courses including those from Google, Microsoft and Imperial College London.

It has just published a guide for 2021 . It covers future-proofing your career and paycheck, researching what digital and personal skills are most helpful to develop during the pandemic, with links to suitable courses, and tips on how to become job ready within six months by using Learnisa to polish your skills.

Free career advice helpline 

The London-based recruitment firm Momenta, which specialises in finding talent and creating a workforce in retail, financial services, technology and the legal sectors, has teamed up with The Big Issue to offer its advice services, free, to those looking for work, or hoping to change careers.

The Momenta / Big Issue jobs helpline, on 0204 534 2810, or email RORAhelp@momentagroup.com, will connect you with a Momenta recruitment expert able to talk you through how to apply for work, write a CV, offer coaching and presentation skills or suggest techniques for writing a cover letter that can help you secure a new job now or when furlough comes to an end.

The Big Issue is offering free training and job search help to anyone who needs it with our new RORA Jobs and Training Toolkit. Sign up to receive a free three-month digital subscription to The Big Issue, access to dozens of free or discounted online training courses and the ability to search hundreds of thousands of jobs.

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