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Is “Reskilling” the Buzzword for 2021?

As we leave behind a tumultuous 2020 and step into the new year, we at findcourses.co.uk are working hard to ensure our users get access to the right funded training you need to navigate the post-COVID-19 economy.

2020 saw a record number of redundancies - 370,000 - between August and October, and an unemployment rate that climbed to 4.9% by October (compared to 3.8% at end 2019). The hardest hit groups were young people, women and low-paid workers. According to the Bank of England’s forecasts, the unemployment rate will continue to rise and peak at 7.7% in April to June 2021.

In a year of crisis and change, the UK government launched a number of initiatives to combat unemployment.

Workers and employees have not been idle either. While coping as best as they could with an unprecedented confluence of challenges -  including redundancies, furloughs, remote working conditions and lockdowns - many have set their sights on learning as a way to future-proof their careers.

In a recent survey, more than 70% of our users say that they are looking to reskill or upskill in 2021. This strong appetite for training is consistent across job levels. Younger workers are more likely to focus on upskilling instead of reskilling. Meanwhile, older cohorts are more likely to reskill - possibly to ensure their skill sets do not become obsolete.

Upskill = to learn new skills or to teach workers new skills

Reskill = to learn new skills so that you can do a different job

- Cambridge Dictionary

However, nearly 90% of our users didn’t know how to check their funding eligibility and weren’t aware that funded courses might be open to them.

This knowledge gap is what we plan to address. We believe funded training will play an important role in helping you - our users - achieve your career goals in the emerging job market.

Read on to learn more about learners’ likelihood to upskill and reskill in 2021, what funding is available for training, the knowledge gap that learners have in accessing funded courses, and what we aim to do to make learning more accessible.


You’re not alone in your desire to upskill or reskill

If you’re thinking of taking a training course in your current field (upskilling) or learning something completely new to do a different job (reskilling), you’re far from alone.

According to our January 2021 survey on career goals, reskilling and upskilling are the top 2 options respondents say they are likely or very likely to do when asked what their plans were for the coming 12 months.

74% of respondents say that they are likely or very likely to retrain or learn something new in the next 12 months.

70% of respondents are likely or very likely to upskill.

chart-Very likely / likely to do the following in the next 12 months

Upskilling is a priority for people across their career span 

There is a high appetite to reskill and upskill across all job levels, particularly at the junior and middle management levels. For instance, 73% of supervisors / team leaders say they are likely or very likely to reskill in the next 12 months. Meanwhile, 63% of middle management personnel say they are likely or very likely to upskill in the next year.

Unsurprisingly, job seekers and those unemployed are amongst those who are most likely to reskill and upskill in the next 12 months. 65% of job seekers / unemployed say they are likely or very likely to reskill, while 59% of job seekers / unemployed are looking to upskill.



chart-Very likely / likely to reskill in the next 12 months - by Job Level


chart-Very likely / likely to upskill in the next 12 months - by Job Level

group of colleagues sitting against a wall

Age appears to be key predictor in choosing to reskill vs upskill

When deciding whether to take training courses to reskill or upskill, age appears to be a key factor.

Young working adults are more likely to upskill than to reskill. In the 18-24 years old cohort, 55% of respondents say that they are likely or very likely to upskill, however, only 27% say that they are likely or very likely to reskill. 

This makes sense because the younger workers have not been in the workforce long enough to have skill sets that are becoming obsolete. Compared to the older cohorts, the 18-24 year-olds are more focused on upskilling to get the training they need to make up for their relative inexperience.

Those who have already been working for a handful of years are more likely to consider changing jobs and gaining the necessary skills to make this switch. Over 60% of the 25-44 years old cohorts say that they are likely to both upskill and reskill. These high figures are in line with the above findings that junior and middle managers - who are likely to be in these age ranges - are especially keen to upskill and reskill.

Meanwhile, older cohorts are somewhat more likely to reskill than to upskill. Although the older cohorts are more experienced than the younger cohorts, there is the fear that their skill sets - earned from years of experience - may be in danger of becoming obsolete with the advent of new technologies and digitalisation. They are therefore more focused on reskilling than upskilling so that their skill sets remain relevant to their employers and the job market.

In the 45-54 years old age group, 52% are likely or very likely to reskill compared to 46% who are looking to upskill. Of those in the 55-64 years old cohort, 61% are likely or very likely to reskill which outnumbers the 50% who are likely or very likely to upskill. Of the respondents aged 65+, none of them say they are looking to upskill but 20% say they would look to reskill.



chart-Very likely / likely to reskill in the next 12 months - by Age

chart-Very likely / likely to upskill in the next 12 months - by Age


Reskilling Case Study

Both my husband and I are from the hospitality sector - he was a sommelier and I was a receptionist. Then the virus hit and there was no certainty as to when, or even if, we would go back to work. 

So, with all the extra time on our hands, we chose to reskill learning about website development, content marketing, and SEO. This is what led us to launch our site - Home Coffee Expert. 

Our future plans have now changed. We will no longer be returning to hospitality and, instead, plan to travel the world.

The new skills we have learned have allowed us to see financial security that will allow us to have a location independent future - something which was never a possibility before.

- Katie Woodburn-Simmonds, Home Coffee Expert 


What funding is available to me for upskilling/reskilling in 2021?

If you’re amongst those looking to upskill or reskill in 2021, the good news is that you may be eligible for funded training courses or funding.

Here are a few ways you can find funded courses or the funding for training courses:

i. The government if you have not taken your A Levels

The government will be providing an influx of funding to adult education via the Lifetime Skills Guarantee.

This initiative offers all adults without an A-Level or equivalent qualification a free, fully-funded college course. This scheme will be available from April 2021 and is backed by the £2.5 billion National Skills Fund. It aims to train and retrain job seekers to prepare them for jobs of the future.

The government estimates that tens of thousands of adults will benefit from almost 400 free funded courses, ranging from engineering to healthcare to accountancy.

“As the Chancellor has said, we cannot, alas, save every job. What we can do is give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs. So my message today is that at every stage of your life, this government will help you get the skills you need.”

- Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 29 September 2020


ii. Individual grants and loans if you are aged 19+

You could get Learner Support if you’re studying a further education course and facing financial hardship. You may be able to get money that pays for accommodation and travel, course materials and equipment, and childcare.

You can also get an Advanced Learner Loan to help with the costs of a course at a training provider or college in England. You’ll start repaying your loan when your income is over a certain threshold amount.


iii. Your employer

Your employer may provide apprenticeship training as part of your apprenticeship. The government introduced the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017 to help lift employment rates, close the skills-gap and boost the country's economy.

Your employer may also provide loans for the training and development of staff. Your employer may stipulate that you have to remain at the organisation for a certain amount of time after the completion of the training course or you would have to pay back the financial support you were given.

two women studying engineering

Many people need help on getting information about funded training

Although the above findings from our January 2021 survey show that there is a high demand for reskilling and upskilling, many people still lack the knowledge to find the funding or funded training courses they may be eligible for.

While a third of respondents say that they intend to apply for the free UK funded government courses that will be released in April 2021, nearly double that proportion (58%) say that they don’t know what that is. 

This finding is supported by the 88% of respondents who don’t know what free funding is available to them in the UK.



chart-Are you considering applying for the free UK funded government courses that will be released in April 2021?

chart-Do you feel like you know what free funding is available to you in the UK?

Nevertheless, learners are eager to find out more about funded training. In response to a question that asks respondents what we at findcourses.co.uk can do to help them achieve their career and learning goals, the top answer by far is “guidance on free courses / funding available”, with more than 70% of respondents choosing this answer.

chart-What can findcourses.co.uk do to help you achieve your goal?

findcourses.co.uk committed to help learners find the right funded training

We at findcourses.co.uk believe more can be done to help learners get access to funded training. We want to close the gap between learners’ clear demand for training and the lack of knowledge in how to access funding and funded training courses.

That’s why we’re working to make access to funded courses and funding easier to understand for our users by:

  • Highlighting courses eligible for funding and including terms of application

  • Building a re-training hub to answer our users’ questions

Would you like to learn more about the top careers to re-skill into?

Learn more

About the author

Carol Pang is a Digital Content Editor for findcourses.co.uk. Prior to this, she has 12 years of experience in the corporate and financial sectors. 

She believes that people are fundamental to an organisation’s success, and that effective training can create a motivated and engaged workforce.

carol pang

Last updated: 04 Feb 2021

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