The thought of learning something different can be intimidating, but training or retraining in something completely new can open doors and lead you to a career that gives you both satisfaction and fulfilment – and give you the edge over other job seekers too.
Having a degree or diploma opens doors and undoubtedly means that you have the potential to earn more money in the long-term. In the current climate when job prospects are poor, it also means that while the market is tough, you will be putting in the hours to gain a qualification that by the time you graduate will put you in a much stronger position to find the job you want. Gaining a degree is not just about a vocation, either. It is also about new experiences, new people, opening up your options and learning life skills. If you have recently been made redundant, it could be your opportunity to invest in a qualification that you have always wanted to pursue, but have never before had the opportunity because of work commitments.
Learning on the job
An NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) is a ‘competence-based’ qualification: this means you learn practical, work-related tasks designed to help you develop the skills and knowledge to do a job effectively.
NVQs can be taken by school and college students who have a work placement or part-time job, which enables you to develop the appropriate skills. Assessment takes place in the workplace and covers all the main aspects of a particular occupation, be that in business and management, sales, marketing and distribution, health care, food, catering and leisure services, construction and property and manufacturing, production and engineering. There is no specific time limit with an NVQ and there is no age limit and no special entry requirements either.
Whether you are looking for a job that enables you to carry on learning, or are already in employment and want to gain further qualifications, an Apprenticeship could be the option for you. As an employee, an apprentice works alongside experienced staff to gain job-specific skills and also receive training with a local training provider such as a college. It is ideal if you have a clear idea of what you want to do and would prefer to learn through experience and be paid a salary at the same time. There are currently 130,000 businesses offering apprenticeships in England. Popular apprentice placements are in engineering, business administration, construction and hospitality.
A new start
Redundancy can be devastating, but it does also offer you the chance to rethink your career and update your skills to make you more attractive in the job market. Retraining is one option but you can also utilise the skills and qualifications you already have. This could be the time to convert an amateur skill into a professional one, develop personal skills, for example, negotiation or assertiveness by taking skills-based courses, retraining in a new skill or update an outdated skill eg in the most up to date software packages. Local authorities run courses that are free or subsidised and there are online courses too, as well as courses that will require investment but will make you an attractive prospect in the jobs market once you have qualified. There are also Government grants available including the Adult Learning Grant, higher education grants and career development loans.
Have you ever thought about retraining to be plumber or electrician? It may be a job you have not considered if you have always been office-based, but there is still a market out there for skilled workers, even in this current economic downturn. It will mean investing money into training, but the financial rewards can be considerable and you have the opportunity to be your own boss once you have the necessary experience and qualifications. It also means that you are not chained to a desk and you get out and about meeting people from all different walks of life.
Be the business
Landing that top job depends on many things – not least leadership skills and commercial acumen. And in the current fast-paced business environment, more people are investing time and resources in business postgraduate education. A Masters in Business Administration (MBA) is probably the world’s best known and most widely recognised postgraduate qualification. Most courses use scenarios that are happening in the real world, rather than relying on academic theory. The MBA has become a symbol of career advancement and high salaries and more people are now seeking to gain this iconic business qualification, making it the most popular masters degree in the UK.
Where to go next
Degree courses and universities: www.ucas.com or www.direct.gov.uk
NVQ courses: www.nvqtraining.org.uk or www.nvqcourse.co.uk
Apprenticeships: www.apprenticeships.org.uk or www.lsc.gov.uk
Redundancy: www.direct.gov.uk or www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk
Retraining: www.newcareerskills.co.uk or www.cityandguilds.com