Are workers with jobs disrupted by COVID-19 willing to retrain?

Tanya AbrahamAssociate Director of Political and Social Research
November 17, 2020, 10:05 AM UTC

Britons tend to think the government should focus on supporting struggling industries rather than encouraging workers to find new careers

The government has faced criticism recently for suggesting that people in the arts sector who cannot currently work because of coronavirus should consider finding a new career.

But how willing are people to take a new direction in their professional lives? YouGov data reveals that coronavirus is currently impacting one in seven (13%) workers’ employment status, either because they are furloughed, experiencing a reduction in pay or hours, or have lost their job.

Of these workers, a quarter (26%) say they are likely to retrain in another sector in the near future.

As part of their attempt to help people into new careers, the government launched a new retraining quiz to allow workers to see what kinds of work they might enjoy. We asked Britons about 11 lines of work that have been reported as experiencing shortages, as well as some of those which appear in the Shortage Occupation List 2020, and asked whether they would consider working in each.

Overall the most popular jobs are IT and software development (30% would consider this), cyber security, manufacturing and teaching (each with 29%).

The least popular jobs are in construction, which only 13% would consider, and food production (16%).

This is replicated when looking specifically at those who would be likely to retrain in the near future.  IT and software development and cyber security are again most popular (48% and 47% respectively), whilst potential retrainees would be least likely to consider a job in construction (22%) and food production (26%).

Despite the criticism in some quarters about the government’s stance that workers should retrain, a clear majority (81%) acknowledge that it is not possible for the government to save every job during the coronavirus crisis.

That being said, half of Britons (48%) tend to think that people working in sectors impacted by coronavirus should be supported in their present jobs so that they can return to them when things go back to normal. Just over a third (37%) think they should instead be helped with retraining to find alternative jobs.

When it comes to actually supporting people to retrain, however, most Britons (55%) think the government is not doing as much as it should be to help people improve their skills or find new jobs.

In terms of what they think the government could do on retraining that would help most, almost two thirds (63%) think offering small businesses financial incentives to take on apprentices would be effective, whilst just over half (54%) think the same of the postponed Job Support. A similar proportion (53%) think government proposals to offer English adults without A-levels a fully funded college course would be effective in boosting retraining.

See full results here