Covid-19 is challenging and changing our lives and livelihood. Three months after the first lockdown, January 2021 was supposed to be a great restart. Yet finding a job, for many young people is difficult, although possible, and for the middle aged impossible. The greatest number of registered unemployment figures recorded in Cyprus until December 2020, were between the ages of 35 and 55 years old. This highlights the importance of helping people switch occupations and gain new skills throughout their career.
Available jobs are concentrated in few categories. And there’s a significant gap, brought on by digitisation, between the skills people have and the skills companies need. People and companies need to embrace a new imperative “retraining” and “reskilling.”
Life expectancy is rising in many countries, along with the retirement age. According to one estimate, half the people born after 1997 in developed countries could live to 100, meaning they will likely spend many more years working—and learning new skills in other words lifelong learning.
Cyprus Human Resources Development Authority (HRDA) supports programs to retrain the unemployed in tourism and construction, both struck by Covid-19 economic downturn. Mid-career assistance should be their major focal point of a system where employers, employees and HRDA leaders need to start talking about “lifelong employability”: helping people continually and successfully adapt as the economy evolves towards automation and digitisation.
In the absence of guidance, some people have the option of participating in training courses, but too often these are not necessarily in skills where there are shortages in the job market. Most courses offered by many accredited training centres and their approach to learning is much as it was 20 years ago. That is, they offer take a one-size-fits-all approach and stale covered topics with no further assistance for placement. Their main priority and effort is exhausted in successfully completing EU funded projects.
As most jobs are in relation to skills such as software development, a return to a four-year degree program is not sure indicator of employability. For example, coding boot camps have become an accepted source of talent for some of the world’s most prestigious tech companies because after two to four months of intensive work, 80 per cent of participants have proved to have found a job.
The formal learning that government and companies now offer is unlikely to be enough to prepare people for this dynamic and uncertain future. We are after-all in the era of do-it-yourself learning and development, so the burden is solely on you. I am sure you had time to reflect in the past months, to explore your interests, learn new things, craft a career that reflects your character, turn your hobby to an everyday job. Focus on retraining and reskilling to remain employable for as long as you desire to be a part of the workforce.
Whatever you decide, for now, embrace “lifelong learning” to meet the challenges of an evolving workforce and the rise of automation with a sense of aspiration and hope. Think about “lifelong employability”.