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Employer behaviour and new skills gained during the pandemic are driving more people to look for a career move than before lockdown, despite fears of mass unemployment at the end of furlough in December, according to research released today by specialist recruiters, Reed.

Survey findings include:

  • 28% of those employed are currently looking for a new job vs 23% before lockdown

  • A better work-life balance (35%), not feeling valued (34%), and gaining valuable skills that could provide them with a better job elsewhere (21%) cited as prime reasons for wanting a move

  • 36% of people in work have done training in the last six months vs 23% of unemployed people

  • Those aged 18-24 (47%) are most likely to have completed extra training

  • Unemployed people say being unsure what to do (36%) and cost of training (23%) is preventing them from upskilling or reskilling

The research, which asked 2,000 people about their skills and job hunting over the last six months, revealed that even before November, 28% of candidates are looking to move compared to 23% before lockdown with work life balance (35%), not feeling valued (34%), re-evaluating priorities (33%) and learning valuable skills that could get them a better job elsewhere (21%) the main reasons for movement in the market.

Hot job market

High numbers of unemployed people are adding to the competition, with 31% already looking for three or more months and almost a quarter (23%)  have applied for at least 50 jobs since becoming unemployed, with mental health stresses (37%), lack of jobs (36%), low confidence in ability (29%), and being underqualified for roles (22%) the biggest hurdles to overcome when finding a job.

James Reed, Chairman of Reed, said: “The health and financial impact of coronavirus has been devastating to many. As such, we are expecting the economy to take time to regain its strength in the wake of this virus and as a result, current candidates are facing an extremely competitive job market.

“Because of this, there is a real opportunity for employers to attract new talent and strengthen their businesses. Many workers have started to become unsettled at this time, and we know that because of this situation there are lots of great, highly-talented people available.

“It is important that whether in or out of work people continue to hone their skills. For those in work, progress must be continued but for many out of work at this time reskilling is something to consider to move into new sectors where there are more jobs.”

Upskilling and reskilling vital to getting a job

More than a third (36%) of people in work have completed training in the last six months, a figure that rises to 47% in those aged 18-24. With digital skills (35%), wellbeing training (31%) and management training (25%) among the most likely to be undertaken.

Unemployed people are also enhancing their skillsets, but 77% have not undertaken any training since losing their job. This could put job seekers at a disadvantage in a competitive market with being unsure what training to do (36%) and not being able to afford training (23%) top reasons for not doing training despite much free training being available on websites such as Reed.

What employers want

Encouragingly, these skill sets match up with those employers are searching for. In a survey of almost 500 business leaders, Reed found that prior to lockdown businesses were most likely to look for teamwork and leadership skills (61%) and communication skills (52%), ahead of financial skills (40%), grasp of technology (33%), and ability to work alone (32%).

In a locked down world teamwork and leadership (58%) and communication (49%) are still important, but businesses are significantly more likely to seek the ability to work alone (44%).

James Reed continues: “Wellbeing will be a key part of attracting talent. If companies can offer mental health support, recognition of work, or provide clear lines for career progression despite an inability to give pay rises, these measures can be very attractive to the wealth of talented professionals looking for new jobs.

“It is a difficult period for everyone, but good businesses know that this is the ideal time to strengthen teams to aid their recovery from the recession if they can. Our research tells us that 36% see growing their organisation a priority, and 33% see business transformation as a leading strategy in the current climate.

“Currently, there’s a need for businesses to recruit for success and for candidates to upskill, or reskill, to give themselves a fighting chance. If both sides of the recruitment coin can achieve these things then it won’t be just companies and individuals that benefit, but the economy as well.”