"Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together." - Marilyn Monroe

Restart your career

If you're one of the thousands who have been furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, what should you do next? And could you turn your furlough experience into a career opportunity?

If you are in this situation, what options do you have? Do you persevere and hope things will eventually return to normal...or do you know, deep down, that this may not happen? Should you look for a new job now, or think big and chase your long-held aspiration to start something new?

As it stands, thousands of people in the UK are already finding themselves out of work. Others are being protected from this fate - for now - by the government's furlough scheme, putting them in a state of employment. But with the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme ending soon, the threat of redundancy is looming ever closer for furloughed employees.

Furlough figures - September 2020

What should you do if you're one of the people affected by this situation? You may be feeling very stressed right now, but the end of furlough could also be your opportunity to begin something new - something far more rewarding than the 'normal' that you knew before.

The furlough scheme is due to end on 31 October, so there's no time to waste. Here are 5 steps that you should consider:

 

1. Contact your employer if you haven't already done so.

Don't be afraid - even if you've barely spoken to your employer while you haven't been working, you can still get in touch now to request some details about your situation and the company itself. You may even wish to ask how the economic forecast is shaping up; does it look like the business will still be able to employ you after October, once the furlough safety net has been taken away?

 

2. Take some time to reflect.

Really focus on what you desire from your life. Think about your career and your professional needs: what do you want to do now, and which direction do want to go in?

 

3. Consider whether you really want to return to your old job.

Ask yourself simple, direct questions: 'Am I happy to return to this job if it's still there? Is this genuinely the career I want, the work I find most fulfilling? Can I see a long-term future for this industry and my place in it?'

 

4. Plan your next steps.

If redundancy is inevitable - or if you've decided that, regardless of whether your position remains secure, you don't want to go back to the old normal - then it's time to think about what you want to do next. Do you take this opportunity to retrain and learn some new skills? Identify what knowledge and qualifications you'll need to make your dream career a reality, then find out how best to reach the required level.

 

5. Look for a clear, realistic career path.

Above all, look for the path that will lead to real opportunities in an area that's sustainable and growing. Whether you're looking to reboot or switch careers entirely, now is a great time to dream big and start building a new picture of your future career.

 

Sometimes, the most important decisions are the ones made for us. As daunting and unprecedented as the current crisis is, it could be your springboard to improved career prospects, especially if you have a long-term goal or ambition that didn't seem realistic before.

Inevitably, emotion will be a factor when you're asking yourself the big questions. It's impossible to provide a detached, purely rational answer to questions like 'If my profession ceased to exist, what career would I want to pursue instead?' or 'How can I reinvent myself?' If you've always thought about re-skilling (or up-skilling) but didn't have the inclination or the need a year ago, now may be the perfect time to take that leap, but use your head to think clearly - don't be swayed entirely by your emotions.

Ultimately, life is never without its difficulties, and there are bound to be setbacks along the way. We can't plan for every single occurrence, but what matters is how you bounce back and move forward. There's always light at the end of the tunnel, and this crisis won't last forever.

Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

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further education

At the Annual Conservative Party Conference, held in September 2019, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson addressed ‘the forgotten fifty per cent’: the portion of the UK’s population which is ‘often overlooked’ when it comes to educational avenues and investment. He stressed the importance of ‘vocational education’ by arguing that it is ‘just as valuable as University education’, and indeed ‘just as important to our economy’; in short, he said that a large portion of the population had been ‘forgotten’ and ‘ignored’ by our education system.

 

Fast forward to his statement in July 2020, and these words have acquired an urgency which resonates with us now more than ever. ‘The tragedy is that for decades we have forgotten about half of our education system’, he writes, while making ‘a commitment to stand for the forgotten 50%’. It is a commitment on which the future of our economy and construction industries depends.

 

Some context: way back in 1999, Prime Minister Tony Blair made it his government’s priority to ensure that 50% of the population attended university, a target which was reached in 2017-18, where 50.2% of students went on to study at university. As ambitious and well-meaning as Blair’s target seemed back in 1999, it certainly bodes the question: what about the other 50%?

 

How we're helping the forgotten 50%

Of course, Access Training has been asking the same questions for years: what about the 50% who don’t consider going to university to be a viable or favourable option? What about those who are perfectly cut out for a career in the trades industry, who need the services we provide to prepare them for the future? What about those highly practical and skilled individuals who are now so crucial to propping up our economy?

 

These are the people that Access Training caters for, and Mr Williamson’s long-overdue call for more investment in training programmes proves that our finger has been on the pulse since the very beginning.

 

But most importantly, we must ask whether university degrees actually deliver the benefits we are told they do? Not so, according to Mr Williamson, who notes the fact that ‘five years after completion, the average Higher Technical Apprentice earns more than the average graduate’. This statistic is earth-shattering to the notion that a university education provides a more dependable route to a lucrative career – and so why have we been peddling it for decades?

 

The truth is, the overwhelming focus of the Department of Education in recent decades has been on reaching pointless statistical landmarks without questioning their value, and as a result, half of the country’s student population has been left out of the equation. No equivalent investment has been made in the futures of the forgotten 50% – despite the fact that apprenticeships and vocational tradespeople often earn more than their graduate counterparts, there is still a massive skills shortage in the construction industry: as of October 2019, 40% of construction trades experienced their highest skills shortages since 2013. Our job is to fill that gap – by treating the trades as a secondary or lower form of education, it’s looking like a steep hill to climb.

 

So after two decades, the forgotten 50% are back in the limelight. But despite Mr Williamson’s commendable emphasis on the ‘need for upskilling, reskilling and retraining’, he fails to draw his attention to the current work of Independent Training Providers who have been supplying these crucial services for years already. It is what the country needs, and it is our ticket to salvaging our economy and future job markets. In short, it’s what we need to ‘get Britain working again'.

 

Since the onset of the pandemic, Access Training has transformed its technical and vocational training into an online portal, available to everyone, anywhere, for however long they need it. It is precisely this ability to provide what Mr Williamson calls ‘flexible, practical training’ which makes our educational model so effective and popular with our students, and perfectly matches Mr Williamson’s vision for the future – right now in the present.

 

The future of reskilling and retraining is already here – enquire today about a course with Access Training.

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"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future." - President John F. Kennedy, 1963

Time for change

How do you start a new life in the middle of a global crisis? 2020 has been a life-changing year for almost all of us, but the economic turmoil and uncertainty have made things particularly difficult for those who were in the process of switching careers when the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

But perhaps this experience has given those individuals a head start. Whether or not your circumstances shielded you from the initial shock of COVID-19, we're all going to have to embrace change over the next couple of years.

On the 10th of August, the Financial Times reported that even established businesses - especially those in the retail, hospitality and travel sectors - were facing unprecedented challenges:

"According to the Enterprise Research Centre, a group of several leading universities, 21,000 more UK businesses collapsed in March than in the same month of 2019. The number of new companies also dropped dramatically, by 23 per cent."

Conversely, many entrepreneurs and their businesses are now thriving, most notably in construction and the trades. People in these sectors have been forced to learn new skills in order to overcome the setbacks that COVID-19 has thrown at them, and those new skills have opened up new opportunities.

In a survey of tradespeople and homeowners that was carried out by national builder's merchant Jewson across June and July, 73 per cent of tradespeople said that they were "optimistic" about the amount of work that will be coming their way over the next six months. The survey also highlighted the fact that 77 per cent of homeowners are planning to carry out work in their homes within the next six to twelve months.

Andrew Cushing, Jewson's Customer Director, said:

"We're delighted that the outlook is positive for the trade. Long may that continue, and we look forward to helping our customers grow their businesses."

So is this a good time to change careers after all? In the Financial Times article, a venture capitalist (an investor who provides funding to companies with high growth potential) said during an interview with journalist Janina Conboye that uncertainty can actually bring its own opportunities:

"If a change or a new beginning feels [...] right for you, I would say that being open to - or rather maybe willing to accept - all the unexpected opportunities is what will give you the strength to deal with the down moments of your choice or change, and ride the highs."

This might resonate with you if you're thinking about a career change but feel that it's not feasible right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe you've been reading all the headlines about the current uncertainty, and even though you're craving change, your fear is telling you to err on the side of caution until things get back to normal.

Changing your career certainly isn't a decision to be made lightly - that's true even during periods of stability. There are many factors you must consider, including your personal commitments and your own individual circumstances. But remember: while most decisions can be reversed, regret can last a lifetime.

With so much upheaval going on at the moment, it may be helpful to think about what your answer would be if, at some point in the future, you were asked this question:

What changes did you make during COVID-19?

Will you have a good answer? Will you be able to say that you followed your aspirations and achieved your goals?

When considering a career change, months or even years ago you might have said 'soon'. Last month, you might have said 'later'. And yesterday, you could have said 'tomorrow'. Is now your time to change? Only you can decide - it really is up to you whether you make that change or not.

As the proverb says, opportunity never knocks twice at any man's door. Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, remember: changing careers is your choice. Don't waste another day, week or month - we are here to help you get there. Talk to us today!

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Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

"Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn." - Winston Churchill

Live Online Learning

Access Training Online is our bespoke online training platform. Launched in April 2020 - during the coronavirus lockdown - it was created specifically for students who needed a practical, flexible, engaging and effective way to learn. Our online courses focus specifically on the vital theory skills that you must learn in order to pass your exams and progress to hands-on trade training.

Demand for e-learning skyrocketed during lockdown, and since then, the exam pass rate of those attending Access Training's Live Online Learning sessions has sharply increased to 90% - significantly higher than before the lockdown.

 

So what exactly is 'Live Online Learning'?

We have created live online sessions that concentrate on specific theory knowledge for your chosen trade, meaning that the time you spend in our training and assessment centre is focused on all the important practical elements of the training. This has already proven to be a winning formula.

These online learning sessions are never pre-recorded. Just like in the classroom, there's a tutor delivering the teaching to a group of learners. During these sessions, you can interact, ask questions and give feedback - all without leaving your home. Alternatively, you can learn from your workplace, a café, or even the beach - anywhere with an Internet connection! You can even access our e-learning content via a mobile device.

Once enrolled, you'll be able to join in with live lectures, be part of the class from the comfort of wherever you choose, and repeat the lessons as many times as you want.

Browse our trade training courses

 

Will I have the same interactive learning experience I'd get in a classroom?

During Live Online Learning, the tutor guides you through the course material, encouraging you to take part and learn with other students in exactly the same way as you would in a classroom. Additionally, everyone receives individual attention when they need it through the subsequent Q&A sessions.

Each webinar focuses on one specific topic and aims to give you the knowledge you'll need to succeed when you take your exams. This helps to ensure that you will be fully prepared to pass and progress smoothly onto practical training. After all, you wouldn't learn to drive a car without passing your theory first - how would you know what you were doing?

Live Online Learning combines the traditional classroom lesson structure with the flexibility of studying from home. Join timetabled live lectures online, and talk to tutors during the webinars for live feedback. All our lectures are recorded, so if you miss one, you can catch up; you can also re-watch previous classes for extra revision.

 

What are the advantages of Live Online Learning when learning a trade?

Live Online Learning suits people who want the benefits of being in class (like live tutor support and a structured approach) but wish to reduce unnecessary time spent travelling to and from the training centre when all you'd be doing is sitting in a classroom. This approach leaves more room for your other commitments, such as work and family.

There are so many advantages to learning through our online portal, including:

  • Scheduled classes that give students the benefit of a traditional classroom setting
  • Interactive classes that allow you to ask questions and make comments, just like in a classroom
  • Online learning materials that give you everything you need to study before your practical training starts
  • A discussion forum where you can keep in touch with tutors and fellow students during the course
  • Extra online content for revision outside of the webinars
  • Dedicated tutor support - get in touch with our expert tutors through LiveChat and request a callback if necessary

Tony Maus, Director of Training at Access Training Academies, said:

"Online learning has rapidly proved its value during the COVID-19 pandemic by being both efficient and engaging. It also offers unrivalled flexibility, giving our learners the ability to select when they learn and to do it at a pace that suits them. This has resulted in an incredibly high pass rate for exams.

"We have received so much positive feedback from our students, who love the freedom of logging into the platform and attending the live online learning from any location. The platform will also benefit them in the long term, as they can keep using the facility for up to 3 years after enrolling on their course. This will enable us to interact and continually develop all of our students, past and present."

Contact Access Training to find out more

Learn your trade. Get qualified. Make it happen.

 

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"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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