Upskilling and training key to post-pandemic labour strategies

Niamh O’Brien, Director, BDO Talent Management featured in The Irish Times Special Report on The Future of Work. Read Niamh's extract below.

According to Eurofound, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, workers with precarious employment conditions have been particularly exposed to job losses. The pandemic hit service sectors that involve a high degree of social contact, many of which employ more women than men and where average pay tends to be low, resulting in what it calls a “sharp contraction” for women in lower paid employment.

Higher-paid service workers have fared better. What the think tank terms the “shelter of telework” has been an important part of this resilience, but again access to this shelter is very much task-dependent. Computer-facing, knowledge-based work can shift into the home, but much in-person service work is still difficult to perform at a distance or virtually, it points out.

The divide “made stark during the crisis, but likely to persist beyond it, is that between ‘remotes’, whose work lends itself to telework, and the remainder, including many ‘essentials’, for whom telework is largely not an option, Eurofound says, pointing out that young people experienced the sharpest decline in employment.

It is advised that active labour market policies need to prioritise training and upskilling to help both the unemployed get back to work as well as protect those already in employment.

Demand for skilled personnel is already accelerating appreciably, according to Niamh O’Brien, director of talent management of BDO Eaton Square, a consultancy.

“Business confidence is starting to come back, and people are hiring, particularly in the tech, pharma and accountancy sectors,” she says.

“Employers were holding off during the pandemic, but that dam has now opened. We are seeing demand for skills-based roles growing and innovation is now front and centre for businesses. Companies are all looking for process improvements, for digital skills, ecommerce and data analytics skills, all are areas we are seeing really high demand for.”

The drive for innovation is supported by a number of funding programmes from Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland. “The Government has done really well in ensuring companies come out of this. It’s up to companies now to avail of these supports and invest in innovation,” she says.

Regardless of sector, one common factor will underpin much of the jobs market post pandemic, she predicts. “Flexible working is going to go way beyond where you work, and into how you work. The nine to five will see a radical shift in a way that will be particularly positive for working parents,” says O’Brien.

Content adapted from The Irish Times special report, Upskilling and training key to post-pandemic labour strategies

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