From younger people starting out in their careers to well-established workers, the pandemic has sparked a significant change in career direction for thousands of people, and apprenticeships are coming into their own to make this happen - not just for school leavers, but experienced workers wanting to upskill and retrain. 

According to leading Yorkshire-based training firm, Eden Training Solutions, the idea that apprenticeships are just for teenagers is a widespread misconception. Apprenticeship training can be embarked upon by anybody over the age of 16 looking for a career change, wanting to upskill or secure a new role after taking time out from work, as well as those starting out in their career,

Be it through personal choice or imposed through redundancy or sudden lack of jobs in certain markets, Eden Training Solutions, which facilitates a broad spectrum of professional training for thousands of 16–60-year-olds across the UK each year, has seen a 50% increase in demand for training in jobs that have featured heavily in the news over the past year, such as education and childcare.

Jon O’Boyle, Director of Operations at Eden Training Solutions, comments: “The increased demand for teacher assistant qualifications, for example, is a direct response to the pandemic. Education has never before been in the media spotlight as it has over the past year. Be it positive or negative news, this exposure has inspired thousands of individuals to pursue a new career in this industry.

“What’s more, the demand for training in leadership and managerial skills, across all industries, has increased massively - indicating that people are using this time, especially when furloughed, so upskill, retrain and boost their CVs.” 

Despite gyms being closed for significant periods of time, people at all stages in their working life are also clamoring to join the virtual PT movement which has enjoyed huge growth off the back of the pandemic. Other ‘pandemic-inspired’ careers include childcare, healthcare, and human resources, which have all experienced an upsurge in interest over the past year. 

A recent report stated that more than half of UK workers - 53% - plan to make changes to their careers in the next 12 months as a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic, with the majority of these opting to retrain. Allan McIntyre, 52, an ex-recruitment consultant from Doncaster, is one of these people, having recently re-trained as a personal trainer under the UK’s apprenticeship scheme. Allan explains: “Prior to the pandemic, I’d been working in a high-pressured recruitment position - which can only be described as a roller coaster - for most of my professional life until I was furloughed during the first lockdown.

“I decided this was my chance to really make a go at it as a career. Whilst on furlough, I didn’t waste any time in future-proofing my prospects and completed my Level 3 in personal training. I’m now out of recruitment and have a position lined-up to work as a PT within a local, high-profile gym once the restrictions are lifted.

“The pandemic gave me the push I needed to move away from a job that wasn’t giving me any satisfaction or sense of security, and instead pursue a career in something I enjoy.  The apprenticeship levy scheme has allowed me to take control of my future and optimize my job prospects.”

National Apprenticeship Week, 8th - 14th February, is the perfect time for workers and employees to discover that apprenticeship training remains fully available throughout the pandemic. 

In January 2020, prior to the pandemic arriving in the UK, a report by UK charity, Education & Employers, which gathered data from 7,000 individuals aged 14 to 18 in the UK, showed that there was a significant trend for young people to aspire for careers in areas where demand drastically outstrips supply. Arts and culture, entertainment and sport, were the most aspirational sectors, followed by financial, insurance, banking, education, legal and scientific. 

However, as many of these sectors find themselves struggling to survive, particularly media, journalism, and the arts, and unemployment at an all-time high, with UK unemployment likely to reach 2.6 million in the middle of 2021, it makes sense that new career paths must be pursued.

Eden Training Solutions urges individuals looking to upskill, retrain or embark on a career now or in the future to investigate the range of funded opportunities available through the national apprentice scheme, be it through their current employer or individually. Jon O’Boyle of Eden Training Solutions concludes:  “apprenticeship training is the key to avoiding mass unemployment, whilst paving the way to fill skills shortages in industries with a sustained abundance of jobs”. 

The complexities of separating your identity from your career path

‘So, what do you do?’

It was Sarah’s last dinner party before lockdown, and someone she didn’t yet know had turned to her from their left, ready to engage in a predictable flow of small talk. Irrespective of her response, he would reply ‘Oh nice, how long have you worked there?’ and ‘Oh cool. What are your colleagues like?’ before proceeding to drone on about his long hours, big paycheque, and annoying boss.

Sound familiar? That might be because the average UK working week clocks in at 36 hours, totaling 1,795 hours a year, and 84,365 hours over a lifetime – 4,512 of which are unpaid overtime (via Hitachi Personal Finance.) As a result, people are finding it harder than ever to separate their jobs from who they are outside of work hours, when boundaries are blurred and stakes are high, and work is often at the forefront of our minds.

the complexities of separating your identity from your career path

Take 26-year-old Taryn Brickner, for example, who feels her chosen career path has to be fully reflected in her personality, in order to land the coveted role in publishing she so heavily desires. “You want to prove yourself in the industry, and your reputation becomes the way to do that,” she tells Cosmopolitan. “It’s impossible not to let your personality and career prospects get intertwined when it feels like one so heavily relies on the other.”

Publishing assistant Kirsty McMillan reiterates this, adding that her desire to do well at work means her personal life often plays second fiddle to work plans. “Having a consistently good reputation at work means saying yes to all opportunities, even outside of work hours, in order to impress the right people. You’re almost never off the clock.” Your email signature becomes more important than the last film you watched, or weekend plans you had.

As a result, LinkedIn research from May 2020 revealed over a quarter (26%) of UK workers struggle to switch off at the end of the day. With working from home and the threat of job loss, that struggle feels more illuminated than ever. “In 2020 the last thing you want is to feel disposable,” Emma Lagarde, also an assistant Cosmopolitan spoke to, adds. “So you never really stop thinking about work. Are you doing enough to impress? Could you be putting in more hours?”

"You’re almost never off the clock"

So, how exactly do you separate your work from your personality? Kelly Hearn, Co-founder of Examined Life, encourages us to identify multiple different loves in our lives, and nurture them all equally. “It’s hard because some of us love what we do, but in a year like 2020 when job loss is at its height, our identities should have many pillars.

"To take the analogy further – a building with one pillar won’t hold itself up... We should have a pillar for relationships, a pillar for activities that bring us pure joy. Create the pillars and focus on them as much as, or maybe more than, your job.”

Mindset coach Suzy Ashworth agreed, adding that you can use small exercises and reflective questions to identify what your personality needs, and to keep your job-related anxiety at bay. “[Ask yourself] ‘Will getting this promotion make me happier in my workplace?’, or ‘Am I able to be my true self when I’m in the office?’ It's all about looking inward and focusing on self-acceptance as a human being, rather than our careers.’

With that comes setting boundaries, identifying your other interests, and trying not to let your work take over your life. And hey, next time someone asks them what you do for work? You can tell them all about your metaphorical colosseum of pillars, instead.