Considering a new job? Here’s how to retrain in 10 crucial areas desperate to hire

From midwife to scaffolder, teacher to restaurateur, here’s how you can pivot career paths and do what you love.

It’s never too late to retrain and choose a new job that you find fulfilling.

With record vacancies, many people are feeling empowered to leave a job that may be unfulling filling, bad for their mental health or simply that they don’t enjoy.

Dubbed The Great Resignation, employees are “getting more power in the workplace”, with firms finding it hard to recruit and “having to try really hard to attract people and keep people,” explained Tony Wilson, director of the Institute for Employment Studies.

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This means, however, that many sectors are seeing severe shortages of workers. There are around 1.1 million fewer people in the workforce than there would have been if the pandemic hadn’t given the economy a serious shaking. With so many fewer people to apply for jobs, there are tens of thousands more vacancies to be filled.

The biggest growth in adverts was for prison officers, scaffolders, dentists and vets towards the end of 2021, while the start of 2022 saw ads in the hospitality sector shoot up. 

The NHS in particular is facing a staffing crisis that has caused serious delays in treatment of patients. Midwives, doctors and paramedics are in high demand, so if you’ve ever considered working in medicine – your NHS needs you.


What to consider before embarking on a career change

Selina Barker, career change coach and author of Burnt Out told the Big Issue: “When someone retrains later on in life they are often the most committed amongst trainees because it was a big decision to take the step to retrain, plus you’ll be bringing lots of valuable life experience with you.

“It’s important that before taking the big decision of retraining you try it out for size in some small way first. Sometimes people can be so keen to be out of the big unknown of what they are going to do with their life or career that they jump too quickly into a three year course before knowing for sure it is what they want to do.

“And there is nothing worse than dedicating money, energy and time to retraining in something, only to find half way through that in reality you don’t actually enjoy it in the way you imagined you would. And so it is essential to hear from people who work in the field you’re interested in – reading interviews, watching videos, going to open days (on or offline) – so that you know whatactivities make up most of their working day, what the challenges are and how others deal with those challenges.

“It’s also important to try the vocation out first in some small way, either by doing a foundation or taster course, shadowing someone as they do that job or doing some work experience.

“Once you’ve really got a taste of this new career path and you know it’s right for you, then don’t let the voice of doubt and fear hold you back. Making a big change like retraining is of course always going to come with challenges, but if it means you end up doing work you enjoy, then it will have been worth overcoming those challenges.”

Here are tips on how to retrain in ten important roles.

How to retrain as a restaurant manager

Most sectors have increased their number of vacancies above pre-coronavirus pandemic levels, but none as high as the increase in accommodation and food services, up by 92,700 vacancies – that’s over 110 per cent.

According to the Caterer, the average salary for a restaurant manager in April 2022 was between £26,999 to £37,499 in London, and around £28,272 for the rest of the country. 

Being a restaurant manager is more about having the right soft or people skills than academic achievements. You rarely need a university degree to work as a restaurant manager, though an undergraduate degree in travel and tourism could help if you want to do work looking at the industry as a whole, such as tackling pervasive issues including pollution or harassment. 

A Level 3 diploma in hospitality supervision and leadership or Level 4 diploma in hospitality leadership would teach you some of the skills you’ll need in this job and can be taken at many colleges. If you are aged 19 or over and do not already have a Level 3 qualification, you can study towards it for free at one of these colleges and training providers.
The Institute of Hospitality offers a range of online courses including casual dining, Banqueting, fine dining, wine service and coffee service. At an affordable fee of £25, it could be just what you need to make your CV stand out.

How to retrain as a prison officer

Prisons were among the employers with the most demand for staff in late 2021, with adverts for prison officers rising by 13 per cent according to Recruitment and Employment Confederation data. 

You don’t need qualifications to become a prison officer, but there are a few requirements. To work in a high security prison (category A) you must have been a resident in the UK for the last 3 years. 

Applicants will also be tested to check whether they are reasonably fit, have good eyesight in both eyes without lenses or glasses, and be able to hear normal conversation from three metres away without the use of hearing aids. 

How to apply to be a prison officer

The first application you fill out should only take ten minutes, but the application process takes between six and seven months from when you submit your form to your first day on the job. 

Applicants are first tested in an online test centre to check basic numeracy, reading and writing skills, as well as personal qualities such as judgement and communication skills. 

Up next is an interview to find out your strengths, and what motivates and energises you, and finally the medical and fitness tests.

Starting salaries from prison officers range from £22,000 to £30,0000. 

Start by finding a role on the HM Prison and Probation Service jobs page, and apply through the portal. 

How to retrain as a scaffolder

The UK is facing a shortage of skilled workers “like never before”, according to DH Scaffold Services. 

Scaffolders put up scaffolding on buildings and structures such as bridges to allow other workers to do their jobs safely. Construction workers building a house extension or roofers tackling a tricky roof repair, are almost guaranteed to require the services of a specialist scaffolder. 

Recent statistics show that demand for scaffolders, bricklayers and plant mechanics exceeded the employment levels recorded in 2015 by up to 300 per cent. 

Scaffolders can also go on to become construction managers or scaffolding designers, earning between anywhere between £19,000 and £40,000. 

How to get qualified

There are many ways to become a scaffolder, so you could consider a college course, apprenticeship or working your way up in a scaffolding company.

You could start by taking a college course like a Level 1 or 2 Certificate in construction operations. You’ll need two or sometimes fewer GCSEs at grades 3 to 1 (D to G) to get a  Level 1 Certificate, and two or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a Level 2, though equivalents are also accepted. 

To become a fully qualified scaffolder at an advanced level takes about three years. An apprenticeship will usually take 18 months to complete, and all of the training takes place in a training centre or college.

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How to retrain as a teacher

The first step to retrain as a teacher is to decide what age you want to teach — from early years to further education, according to Get Into Teaching.

The next step is to assess your qualifications — a degree or equivalent is needed to progress to teacher training and you’ll also need grade 4 (C) and above GCSEs in England, maths, and science if you want to teach primary. If you don’t have these qualifications, there may be other ways to show you meet the standard.

If you don’t have a degree, you can do undergraduate teacher training.

How to get funding

People who want to train to teach can apply for a tuition loan of up to £9,250 and a maintenance loan of up to £12,383. If you already have a student loan, your repayments will not increase. There are also tax-free bursaries or scholarships available to train in certain subjects such as Chemistry, Maths or Biology. Final year undergraduate students may also be eligible for a £9,000 training bursary.

Former military personnel may be eligible for a tax-free £40,000 Troops to Teachers bursary.

More about eligibility for bursaries and funding your training.

How to take on this new career for free

Britain needs new teachers more than ever, according to charity Teach First. These learn-on-the-job schemes fast track people to the classroom where they can earn a salary and pay no fees. With Teach First, new teachers train for two years, with an optional third year to get a Masters degree. After five weeks training, teachers begin working in the classroom.

People who want to undertake a career change can do so through the Schools Direct programme. Applicants usually need three years worth of transferable employment history. The course takes a year and those taking part earn a salary but do not always work towards a qualification.

How to apply for a teaching course

Courses usually start in September or January, with applications opening around a year before and staying open until they are full, according to Get Into Teaching. One-to-one support is available via a teacher training adviser. Postgraduate teacher training coursesare listed online. Try these top teacher training tips to make your application sparkle.

How to retrain as a paramedic

You can become a paramedic by studying an approved degree in paramedic science then applying to the ambulance service. Undergraduate courses take three to four years full-time and include the NHS Learning Support Fund’s minimum of £5,000 a year to find studies. Some ambulance trusts offer the option of studying while working, according to NHS health careers.

Skills needed to change career to a paramedic

One mandatory requirement to become a paramedic is a full, manual driving licence. Other must-have skills include being able to remain calm in stressful situations, great communication skills and being able to make quick decisions.

How to retrain as a nurse

A nursing degree is the UK’s most employable type of degree, with 94% of students getting a job within six months of the end of their course, according to NHS health careers. Some people are eligible for at least £5,000 financial support for each year of their degree.

Choose a nursing course

Like teaching, the first step in a career change to become a nurse is deciding which area you want to specialise in. There are four to choose from; adults, children, learning disabilities or mental health. Some courses allow students to specialise in more than one field. You can search the NHS jobs course finder. Since the pandemic, some universities are offering online nursing courses, which can be found by searching ‘blended’ on the course finder.

Other routes to becoming a nurse

A degree is not the only way to become a nurse. Other routes include registered nurse degree apprenticeships (RNDAs), which are advertised on the NHS jobs website. Another option is to become a nursing associate, which is an adjacent role to care support workers in health and social care. These trainee roles do not make you a registered nurse but can be topped up with further training.

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How to retrain as a midwife

The role of a midwife is rooted in compassion and nurturing as they help deliver newborn children into the world. 

It’s also about building respectful relationships with families and pregnant people in the run-up and aftermath of births.

Statistics reported by the National Health Executive reveal that for every 30 midwives who train, 29 leave the profession, making the position severely understaffed in the UK.

There is also a global shortage of around 900,000 midwives, according to The State of the World’s Midwifery report, which analysed 194 countries — making it a job in demand and vital for public health.

How to get qualified as a midwife

Retraining to be a midwife depends on whether you already have other medical qualifications.

If you’re a qualified nurse, for example, you can take a fast-tracked 18-month course.

If not, you’ll need to study for a three-year midwifery degree.

About half the degree will be spent on practical placements — learning about maternity care in community and hospital settings.

How can I get midwifery funding?

You can get a government grant of £5,000 each academic year under the NHS Learning Support Fund, which launched in 2020.

You can also get a further £2,000 parental support grant if you have at least one dependent child under 15 years, or under 17 years if registered with special educational needs.

Feeling inspired? We spoke with five midwives to learn more about why they think their line of work is facing a staffing shortage and what they love about their job.

See here for more information on the NHS Learning Support Fund.

How to change career and become a plumber

You can retrain as a plumber via an apprenticeship, by completing a fast-track course or by working as a plumber’s mate. Traditional plumbing apprenticeships take four years to complete and are sponsored so don’t cost anything. However, fast-track plumbing courses are a good option for people who want to career change as they only take eight to 10 weeks.

Why is becoming a plumber a good career change choice?

There is a high demand for plumbers in the UK, according to the Skills Training Group. This is because many skilled workers are of retirement age and because of lack of funding for apprenticeships. Visit the Skills Training Group for more information on finding a new career path.

How to start a new career as a doctor

There are many routes to becoming a doctor, according to the British Medical Association (BMA), but it’s worth considering undergraduate training can take up to six years before a career change. Graduate entry programmes into medicine can be found at some universities. However, it is also possible to study medicine as a mature student or with few qualifications. A good place to start is an access course at your local college, according to the BMA. People without a science background can opt to undertake pre-clinical medical foundation courses.

Medical training route

After undergraduate medical training, graduates must complete two years’ integrated training to be able to practice as a doctor in the UK. Post-graduate training gives doctors 60 different specialities to choose from.

How to start a new career as a counsellor

There are no compulsory training courses or qualifications for therapists. However the British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) sets its own standard for training. BACP recommends a three-stage route of three to four years,

Career Change step one: Introduction to counselling

Deciding whether counselling is the right career change for you can be explored with an initial step of an introductory course, according to BACP. If you search for courses, they are usually run at further education colleges or adult education centres and last up to 12 weeks.

Search distance-learning counselling courses via the Open University.

Certificate in counselling skills

The next step is a one-year part-time course that develops your counselling skills, expands knowledge of theories, ethics and self-awareness.

Find out more about becoming a counsellor.

Core practitioner training

According to BACP, your course should be at least one-year full-time or two years part-time classroom-based tuition. The training should also include supervised placements of a minimum of 100 hours to practise skills with clients under supervision. Accredited courses can be searched via the BACP directory, Hot Courses or UCAS.

Search counselling jobs

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