Economic commentators across the globe continue to debate, analyse and predict the impact that the pandemic has had on global, national and local economies. Many are prescribing to the ‘V-shaped’ scenario (see: Figure 1), where the obvious significant economic challenges brought on by COVID-19 (demonstrated by the UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as falling by almost 10% in 2020 compared to 2019) recover quickly and strongly. Current predictions of a 7.25% growth in GDP in 2021 – the fastest growth since World War II – would possibly support this. Others are looking at alternative outcomes, with the letter ‘K’ being used by some as the descriptor (see: Figure 2). This would see potential strong performances in larger corporates and public sector organisations, while other, smaller business may continue to struggle. Other potentials include the ‘W’ (see: Figure 3); pessimistic-strong-decline again, and the ‘L’ (see: figure 4); which is a decline and remain low.
What is clear is that uncertainty and challenges lie ahead across all sectors and all economies. The legacy of huge market and economic interruption, where there has been huge amounts of business casualties and a vast reliance on state support, will be a period of instability. We cannot underestimate the importance of people and their performance in enabling organisations to navigate these challenging times ahead and the instability that is amongst us. Talent recruitment and development is more important than ever before.
Critical to this is improving the core skillsets that are required for individuals to perform successfully in their chosen occupation and profession, but so too is the development of a skillset that may have previously been alien to as a business or a function. Furthermore, it can be argued that these skills are not merely a response to the pandemic and that their need has been emerging for some time. The globally recognised leadership and business consultants, McKinsey, suggest four key areas that businesses and organisations should focus on. The first is perhaps the most obvious; to expand the ability for people and businesses to operate in a fully digital environment. The second encourages cognitive development to enable redesign and innovation. The third revisits the importance of communication and relationships moving forward, aiming to strengthen social and emotional skills so we are better placed to collaborate, lead and motivate. Finally, developing the adaptability and resilience of people is vital as we enter an age of change, with automaton and digital solutions gathering momentum and speeds unseen before.
It is not surprising that we are seeing Government position the skills sector at the heart of the nation’s pandemic bounce back. Statutory changes are being made to ensure the post-16 education sector is best placed to drive the nation forward, with Colleges and employers working hand-in-hand to develop the talent with the skills, knowledge and behaviours that we need to move forward. Vocational education is not what it used to be; workshops with poor equipment and out of date lecturers. Today, Further Education Colleges are multi-million-pound education institutions, with cutting edge facilities, highly-trained staff and a passion for ensuring students are at the top of their game before going into the world of work or higher-level education. Apprenticeships have all been redesigned and rewritten in last few years by employers, all 680 of them. Nowadays, you can be an apprentice pilot, policeman or project manager amongst many other occupations and areas of expertise.