impact of covid-19 on jobs and careers

COVID-19 has changed the way many of the country’s workers and school leavers are thinking about their careers. From increased home working to a reevaluation of career choices, the impact of the Coronavirus will be felt for years to come.

Recent reports from the financial company Aviva and the education media point to some revealing facts. Since the start of the pandemic last year, almost 50% of UK workers say they plan to make career changes because of COVID-19; and within the country’s schools and universities, a rising number of students are now looking to reassess their career assumptions.

We already know that the Coronavirus pandemic has tipped the UK into recession and caused more than nine million people to be furloughed. But as the lockdown eases, we may well see more than half of the UK’s 34 million workers make significant changes to their careers as the full impact of the virus on the workplace becomes clear.

How has COVID-19 affected jobs and career choices?

A new study from Aviva suggests that as many as five million people are planning to turn a new hobby into an income stream; two million workers will look to find a new role that helps others; and one in 10 people aged 55-64 are planning to retire in the next year because of COVID-19.

Aviva’s How We Live report found that almost half of the nation’s adults (45%) have tried their hand at new hobbies, often while furloughed, which has provoked many creative ideas for career changes.

The most popular career aspiration to emerge from the crisis has been the desire for flexibility. One in 10 UK workers says that in the next 12 months, they aim to find a role that will allow them to work from home. 

There is also an aspiration to retrain or learn new skills. This is a plan for 9% of UK workers. This rises to 15% of people aged 25-34. Echoing this view, 8% of workers hope to gain more academic qualifications in the next 12 months. 

Impact of COVID-19 on student career choices

In the country’s schools, research suggests that students have also started to reassess their career choices.

The Head of the 6th form at Burgess Hill Girls school, Bill O’Brien-Blake, has noted a strong interest in biomedical-related courses and research-based sciences, and says students have been inspired by seeing ‘’what science can do’’. Elsewhere, an unprecedented political 12 months has driven a real interest in politics and international relations, says Beck Evans of Cheltenham College. “Students are so much more globally aware than previous generations.”

The Education research company, Prospects, surveyed more than 6,500 students and graduates to find out how Covid-19 was impacting their career decisions and experiences.

More than a quarter of respondents had changed their career plans due to the pandemic and 37% said they are still uncertain about what they will do.

Students and graduates cited a variety of reasons for switching their plans. Many had been inspired by people who were actively involved in supporting the pandemic response while others said they wanted to escape industries that were struggling such as travel and hospitality.

Some respondents said they were looking at apprenticeships as an alternative to study, so they could start to earn money. Three quarters of respondents said that they had looked for an apprenticeship or training scheme in the last 12 months.

Training and development opportunities, career progression and work/life balance were the top three most important factors students and graduates cited when considering their career options.

Prospects also asked about the challenges being faced. Those at school said taking care of their mental health was their biggest challenge, followed by studying at home. College and university students and graduates cited that keeping motivated was their main challenge, followed by taking care of their mental health.

Nabilah Thagia, 17, from Bolton, is studying for her A Levels at college. She said “I had set my sights on engineering in year 10 but had second thoughts because there were so many other options available that I enjoyed. Reading about the amazing contributions engineers were able to make during the pandemic, through manufacturing ventilators, PPE and statistically modelling the spread of Covid-19, helped to change my mind.”

Charlie Ball, Head of Higher Education Intelligence for Prospects said, “The developments and research in health and social care and other industries are making people see those careers with a fresh perspective.”

He added, “With challenging job prospects … many young people are naturally feeling vulnerable and isolated. It is vital that we find more ways to deliver career advice and support to young people, particularly those in under-represented groups who are at most risk of disadvantage. We must remember that although students and graduates have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability during the last year, the job and career prospects of the young have been hit disproportionately hard by this pandemic and they deserve the best support possible.”

The future of career choices

Across the age spectrum, COVID-19 will impact significantly on the way people think about their career choices, probably for years to come. More than ever before, this will require careers advice platforms to provide help, support and guidance in a way that acknowledges this new reality.