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Tracey Russell

By Tracey Russell, Head of Curriculum for Employability 

Having lived through eight months of a global pandemic, it is clear to see that our lives will never be the same. Lockdowns, air bridges, furlough schemes and face coverings have altered the fabric of our day-to-day existence and all the experts predict that the upheaval of 2020 will have a lasting impact on our economy. 

The UK unemployment rate for July to September 2020 was 4.8%, meaning 314,000 people lost their job in this three-month period. Young people have been hit particularly hard by the COVID containment measures as they tend to work in the sectors most impacted by social distancing – such as hospitality and retail. 

Some of the worst hit by the blowback of the virus are those getting ready for the next chapter in their lives, with 1 in 7 under-25s looking for work. It was clear from an early stage in the pandemic that the education sector needed to respond to the crisis and offer support to those who needed to upskill or retrain. 

As the Head of Curriculum for Employability at Glasgow Clyde College, our response to the changes in the economy and job market needed to be swift and accessible. We already offered a wide range of gateway and access programmes for young people as well as adults returning to education, but we could see there was an increasing desire for short, sharp interventions to help with the step into employment. 

In response, we introduced a number of part-time courses focusing on the skills needed to find a job in an increasingly digital landscape. For example, ‘Preparing for Work’ is a four-week, part time online course which helps those un- or under-employed look for employment opportunities. 

Students are assigned a personal development tutor who helps them navigate the ‘new normal’ job application process, including searching for roles relevant to their skills, completing online forms and preparing for Zoom interviews. Tutors also assist with preparation of CVs and providing insight on employment rights. 

We understand the importance of ensuring all our learners have the right skills for whatever the future brings, sustaining employment and adaptability in an ever-changing world. Recent examples include courses in careers of the future and butchery – responding directly to changes in the national jobs market. 

While digital courses have allowed the college to pivot online, we knew that some students looking to reskill would respond best to on-campus learning. In line with Scottish Government guidelines, a blended learning course was developed to support this – taking students beyond the boundaries of the laptop screen. 

Our NQ Adult Return: Future Confident course features a combination of remote and on-site, part time learning. Students will work on refreshing their basic numeracy and communication skills, as well as developing their digital proficiency and improving confidence for re-entry to the world of work or further education. Furthermore courses can be tailored to the student’s schedules out with the college 

Many adult returners thrive during their return to education, so through our part-time courses we offer progression pathways which support students moving onto other subject areas in the college. This can lead to full-time qualifications, industry apprenticeships and university articulation.

The challenges we face are becoming increasingly clear. As a result of COVID-19, there are fewer job opportunities and many people are being left behind in an increasingly digital world. However, it is never too late to reskill or retrain. The education sector is able to arm adult learners with the tools they need to navigate the job market of tomorrow.