"As I look back on my life, I realise that every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better" - Vala Afshar, July 2020

Smiling face

Has COVID-19 given us a new perspective on the value of work?

The global pandemic has had a huge impact on our working lives. It has forced many of us to consider just how much we value our work and how much we enjoy our current jobs - if we enjoy them at all!

The boundaries between work life and home life have been blurred by the lockdown, and it can be difficult to strike the correct balance. Most types of work, while important, are not as important as feeling the fulfilment of one's family, hobbies and the home itself. This leads to one question:

Do you really enjoy your work?

Many supposedly 'low-skilled' jobs have recently gained an air of heightened importance - perhaps even prestige. At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, the UK government recognised cleaners, delivery drivers, retail staff and so on as 'Key Workers' and acknowledged that the country would grind to a halt without their continued efforts.

This 'Key Worker' label means a great deal to many and has generated some well-earned respect for professionals whom we too often forget. But being 'key' does not always mean making a good salary, even though many of these people have recently been working longer hours in extraordinarily stressful circumstances.

And amid all the current chaos, it's easy to forget reports from recent years suggesting that workplace morale is very low in general - for instance, a 2017 Gallup poll reported that 87% of workers in the UK felt disengaged in their job.

Still, with more people working from home lately, we now seem to be collectively appreciating the value of work and recognising that it does play a crucial role in our wellbeing. We can be happy in our work as long as the job is enjoyable, rewarding and reasonably secure.

What job will make you happiest?

The economic slump that will surely follow this pandemic is likely to see many workers looking for new roles that offer the right amount of job security and longevity. A lot of people are already seeking a new purpose in life; finding the 'right' career is paramount for one's personal identity, but happiness is the key factor for most of us.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important is to have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." - Steve Jobs, 2005

So what's the secret to professional happiness? A survey commissioned back in 2018 by Boundless found that Britain's plumbers are the happiest professionals in the country, with 55% of plumbers saying they were 'very happy' in life.

The survey was designed to uncover who is happy, both at home and at work, and what makes them feel good about themselves and their lives. Plumbers ranked highly in the survey for quality of sleep and physical activity. Not a single plumber said they were 'unhappy' in their job. Compare this to those who work in customer service, and to lawyers, police officers and chefs, all of whom were reported as being unhappy in their work.

Electricians, at 50%, were also one of the happiest groups, with tradespeople in general being way ahead in their happiness index. Builders were also high up on the list.

The Boundless job happiness index

Very happy in life:

  1. Plumbers (55%)
  2. Builders (38%)
  3. Marketing (36%)
  4. Taxi & Lorry Drivers (32%)
  5. Bankers (32%)
  6. Doctors (31%)

[Source]

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"You cannot go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending." - Vala Afshar, June 2020

Man looking out his window

Right now, we find ourselves singularly and collectively living through a period of change whose outcome none of us can confidently predict. The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdown are events that have become huge catalysts for change, the likes of which we have not seen for generations.

Will things ever return to 'normal'? That's what we're all asking - habits have changed or been broken for us, and that has given many of us the space and time to think about the future and do a bit of soul searching. From a career point of view, there are certainly some deep questions to consider: Where am I going? What is my end goal? Have I just been going through the motions, conforming to a pattern because that's what everyone else was doing - just getting on or getting by?

Here's one positive thing about the lockdown: it's shown us that other ways are possible and that not everything is predetermined. We are allowed to think differently now, and where you go from this point in your life - and your career - depends on you and your decisions as an individual.

How we learn new skills is crucial, and the speed of change in learning has been breathtaking. Universities are under threat because people are now wondering if there's something better and less expensive they could be doing to progress their careers. What are my other options, you might ask, and are traditional institutions really worth the price tag?

As an aside and by way of an example, school teaching - while undoubtedly an indispensable profession - is having to dramatically rethink its approach. Other viable ways of educating have emerged in recent months; online learning has become the new norm in some areas, with the benefits now outweighing the negatives for many. It's another example of the 'interruption of the established ways of doing things' that can have unintended consequences and lead to better solutions that focus on the outcomes or the 'goal' first and foremost.

Access Training Academies' online learning portal is a result of challenging 'the norm' and a reflection of this period of change.

There are even more drastic changes that have grown beyond all expectations. The way we consume goods and services has altered dramatically and will affect our economic model forever; with it, the jobs and careers that many are currently pursuing will change or may be negatively affected. We are clearly seeing the entertainment and hospitality sectors being badly affected, and retailers are suffering from a lack of footfall in shopping centres and high streets due to a surge in online shopping. Is this a new 'normal'? People are certainly now thinking of where to go with their careers and what their aspirations are.

Above all, everyone will want job security and to be at ease with their future prospects, as the current uncertainty has affected every part of our lives and the wider economy. LinkedIn, the social network that focuses on professional networking and career development, last week published a Workforce Confidence report showing how confident UK professionals are feeling about their job security, financial wellbeing and career prospects.

LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Report

Source: LinkedIn

"The latest data shows professionals working in the Construction and Software & IT Services industries are feeling most confident, with a score of 24, followed by Healthcare (21), Finance (18) and Manufacturing (18). Several industries were found to have a score of below 10, with Nonprofits feeling the least confident, with a score of 0, followed by Recreation & Travel (4) and Retail (6)."

The construction industry is one of two sectors with the highest level of confidence reported; job security could be high for the next few decades. The recent announcement by the UK Government regarding huge infrastructure investment means the future is bright in this sector.

The sheer volume of available construction work has increased and will continue to increase a great deal over the short, medium and long term, with lots of work required in terms of erecting buildings and modern infrastructure. Furthermore, older buildings will continue needing to be restored or refurbished, so there should be no shortage of work for tradespeople. New, sustainable practices have brought about the need for a greater volume of hi-tech construction projects, which will of course continue to require a steady supply of workers over the coming years.

The COVID-19 lockdown has not been a positive experience overall, but if there's a silver lining, it's that the lockdown has given many of us the chance to wonder where we are going and why. Maintaining a constant level of happiness throughout our lives is paramount; despite events that are out of our control, we all continually work to maintain that certain level of happiness. Making changes - such as shifting our values, our attention and our goals - allows us to be alert to our situation, and having a stable, rewarding and fulfilling career is central to that. A career in construction could be the solution for you.

Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

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"Where you are now is based on the decisions you made 5 to 10 years ago. Where you will be in 5 to 10 years is based on the decisions you make now." - Vala Afshar, June 2020

Time for a career change

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong time to change careers - it's a question of circumstance and ambition versus confidence and opportunity. During difficult times, there are plenty of factors that can influence whether or not you feel ready for a career change; in the end, however, it comes down to you as an individual, your own determination, and your own faith and belief in yourself.

Many people have discovered a lot about themselves during lockdown. This applies to those placed on furlough and to key workers who have continued to work through this extraordinary period, but it's especially true for self-employed individuals whose work completely dried up when the lockdown began. For everyone, though, it's a question of whether now is the right time to change and why. Should you take that leap of faith? Or have you been pushed into making life-changing decisions when, actually, you feel hesitant to make a bold move?

Maturity allows us to reflect on decisions made earlier in our lives. During your younger years, you may not have had the confidence or the opportunity to go for the career you really wanted. But now, most students at Access Training Academies (who are mainly in their 30s) believe it's now or never. It's a case of 'Why not?' and 'If I don't do it now, am I going to have the chance again?'

Lockdown has given many the chance to think about this more than ever before. It has also provided the space and the time - away from a 'normal' routine - to have positive thoughts, against the overwhelmingly negative situation everyone was facing up to. Without a doubt, the decision to change can be quite scary; this is only natural, as it's an unknown quantity with an unknown outcome. But it could be an amazing opportunity for change, backed with the certainty that skills shortages remain and opportunities abound.​

Here at Access Training Academies, we learned very quickly during lockdown that many were confidently changing careers and still focusing all their energy positively into their online learning during live webinars that taught them the theory aspects of various trades. Many seemed to be using the lockdown as an opportunity to focus on their future lives and careers.

Confidence is a crucial factor when considering a career change, and a transition into the trades offers a clear potential for future prosperity. COVID-19 did limit on-site work at first (with many sites closing completely and homeowners unable to allow tradespeople into their homes), but the construction industry has become the catalyst to lift the country out of the COVID-19 economic crisis, and with that, many skilled people will be needed to get the work done and the country back on its feet.

So, if you're around 30 years old and you're considering learning a trade, is now the time? Here are 3 fundamental points for you to consider right now:

  1. Think about what trade you want to do and what kind of lifestyle you want. The kind of work you choose to do for a living will dictate what kind of lifestyle you'll have. Each trade offers something different that suits different personal characteristics and aspirations. We can advise you on this and many other aspects.

  2. Think about what service you can provide for paying customers. Consider what you would be able to provide with your newly-learned skills and qualifications gained. What skills do people need? And just importantly, what are you interested in? Talk to us so we can help you.

  3. Think about where you want to be in 5-10 years time. 5 to 10 years ago, you probably wouldn't have had the inclination to make the decision to change, or you may not have had what it takes to make a success of a new career in the trades. But you have amassed a great amount of valuable life experience since then - this can only come with maturity and the challenges that come with everyday life. Talk to us about your options.

Of course, the COVID-19 situation is a major influence on everything right now, but it won't be forever; 'the new norm' will eventually become second nature, and the trades sector will be one of the first - if not the first - to recover and grow markedly.

In fact, 'normality' appears to be returning already. Signs of economic improvement have been reported by Pimlico Plumbers. with company sales up £150,000 compared to the first two weeks of July last year. Pimlico has even set a company record by booking more than £280,000 worth of pre-scheduled jobs in a single week. Charlie Mullins, the founder of Pimlico Plumbers, said:

"There has been little good economic news since lockdown began, but I think there is now light at the end of the tunnel. Some experts have speculated that this time the recovery could be as lightning-fast as the collapse, and in our business, we are seeing sales data to back up that theory."

The time to change may never be 100% clear, but one thing's for sure: time waits for no one. Your career decisions right now will dictate where you will be in 5-10 years from now, and the opportunities are out there; it all depends on whether you have the confidence to make a change.

Talk to us today - our Career Support Team is here to help.

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Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

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Work is running dry in some sectors, but the UK's trade skills shortage could be your opportunity to bounce back.

A striking headline in the 19th July edition of The Sunday Times reads: "Work's running dry as 484 people apply for two precious pub vacancies".

Pint of beer in pub

This is followed by another startling stat: "£9-an-hour post triggers a stampede of highly qualified applicants".

But the numbers aren't the only noteworthy part of this story. Just as remarkable were the types of applicants one bar owner was hearing from before he pulled his job advert after only five days.

The Sunday Times article reported that former air stewards, restaurant managers and experienced shop workers - all recently made redundant - were among the hundreds of applicants, whereas normally pub and restaurant owners would expect to receive a dozen or so replies from youngsters with limited experience.

Up and down the country, the story is the same: employers are reporting a stampede of applications for entry-level roles that they would normally struggle to fill. One manager said:

"The quality of people looking for work right now is as good as it ever has been. Unfortunately it's because of the situation people have found themselves in."

Worringly, this could just be the tip of the iceberg - the government's furlough scheme may be giving many workers a false sense of normality right now, but according to some reports, a larger wave of unemployment could hit the UK very soon.

But ask yourself: do you need to take a backward step if this happens to you? Or could this be your opportunity to train for a different career - something you'll find truly rewarding?

 

Learn new career skills with Access Training Academies

Losing your job can be a scarring experience, but before you join the throng of people currently applying for entry-level work in bars and pubs, ask yourself: wouldn't it be more fulfilling to retrain and join an industry that's currently crying out for new workers?

In all likelihood, you've amassed considerable transferable life skills over the years, so why not make the change and become a professional tradesperson? Most think it's a bridge too far - that it's somehow beyond them, an unknown area of employment - but others see the opportunity in front of them and never look back.

The decision to change career is already being forced on many people. Will you seize the moment, discover your entrepreneurial spirit, use your life experience to your advantage, and start something new and rewarding?

"I did a course with these guys [Access Training Academies]...since I passed last year, I decided to go on my own. The phone hasn't stopped ringing since, and I'm at the point now where I have employed two extra guys."

- James Mummery, Professional Electrical Course

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Construction worker carrying plans

Demand for construction and groundworkers has surpassed the pre-lockdown peak, suggesting that the rest of the UK construction industry is about to experience a significant upturn.

Analysis of payroll data by Hudson Contract, the industry's biggest payer of subcontractors, shows that the number of groundworks operatives paid in the week beginning 29th June reached 6,467. This exceeds the previous high of 6,261 - recorded in the week of 16th March, just before lockdown - and shows how far the construction industry has recovered since the low point of 1,735 in the week of 20th April.

Groundworkers typically prepare construction sites for the foundations of new homes. Ian Anfield, Hudson's managing director, said:

"Every trade follows the groundworkers, so they are the best indicator of what is happening.

"We are quite surprised at these findings because a number of our large clients have not yet returned to full capacity with their labour needs.

"But many smaller construction firms are very busy as a result of pent-up demand to complete smaller housing developments."

Overall, labour demand dropped to 30% of capacity during April but has now recovered to 74%, according to Hudson.

This development comes hot on the heels of positive news and government announcements from the last two months. Construction output rose by 8.2% in May after the record cliff-edge fall suffered in April at the height of the industry's lockdown. And with Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announcing huge plans to provide career opportunities, it looks like the UK construction industry is going from strength to strength even in this difficult time.

Experts are now urging people to think about learning a trade and pursuing career in construction to help fill the demand that will arise in the coming months and 2021 as the UK gets back on its feet.

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