Reskilling Isn’t Like Popping To The Hairdresser For A New ‘Do

Reskilling Isn’t Like Popping To The Hairdresser For A New ‘Do October 12, 2020

Image credit: Katie Gerrard created via Canva

Fatima’s next job could be in Cyber!

I’m sure many people have spoken about this advert. However, as someone who has worked within education, recruitment, and mentoring long term unemployed, I can’t keep quiet on this.

Fatima could be reskilled. Fatima I’m sure is an amazing human being who can do whatever her heart wants and her life needs. We all are. People’s resilience, motivation, and drive will continue to impress and delight me until the day I die.

Image credit: UK government advert

But if the Chancellor genuinely believes Fatima’s journey from Ballet Dancer to an unnamed role in IT will be as easy as a six-week course he hasn’t done enough research.

This level of dance proficiency is not a vocation, it’s a lifestyle. Everything Fatima eats, whether she goes to the pub on a Friday night, what footwear choices she makes: it’s all for dance. She doesn’t forget her job when she’s unemployed or when it’s outside office hours.

She hasn’t spent furlough sitting on her bum watching old episodes of Eastenders. Her fitness regime has continued in the anticipation of the rekindling of her career.

It’s likely she committed to a life of ballet before she even started high school let alone looked at her GCSE choices.

Even if she hadn’t, like countless other people in the creative industries, Fatima has put many years of life into her career.

Sometimes things change so dramatically whole sectors and job roles no longer exist. That’s ok. What’s not ok is the government binning sectors it feels are inconvenient even though there’s still a huge desire and need for them.

When the pandemic is over, we’ll still want to consume the arts. During lockdown all many people did was consume other people’s creativity. These aren’t dead sectors, but lack of investment and respect was already crippling them.

When the Chancellor demands retraining, he forgets these industries will lose valuable members. As a business, people are your biggest asset. A brief training course won’t make a ballet dancer or a session musician.

Creative skills aren’t just something you’re born with. Those lucky enough to be naturally talented still need to work on their abilities every day.

I’ve mentored people as they reassess, rebuild, and retrain their careers. Reskilling isn’t about strapping on your big boots and getting on with it.

Shifting your mental expectation and stepping into the possibility of a new life takes more effort than you can imagine. People who are leaving careers grieve for the life they’ve lost. It’s a painful process which leaves you tired, frustrated, and self-critical.

Learning new skills means creating new neural pathways and going through the ups and downs of the learning curve.

Of course, where someone has left a career through injury, or a huge screw up, this process is essential. Where a person decides upon a dramatic life change it’s also inevitable. Reskilling is a worthwhile, beautiful thing and in my career, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed holding people’s hands through the process.

That’s not what’s happening here.

Instead the government are (probably under) funding a program to reskill creative workers so they can change their entire lives against their consent.

They could have ploughed money into the arts sectors.

The furlough scheme could have continued.

Musicians, theatres, and leisure venues could have been given saviour programs.

The Chancellor is paying for a sticking plaster program when it could have spent that funding on saving the creative sectors and ensuring jobs.

It even paid for propaganda to convince you it was right.

And used creative people to do so.

When Fatima goes through the process of reskilling, she’ll join a new sector. She’ll have a year, maybe two before the creative sectors try and come back to life.

What happens then?

Not only is the government refusing to help venues and arts businesses stay afloat during this uncertain time, they’re also taking their biggest assets.

If Fatima does join a new company then decides later to go back to Ballet, Cyber loses a member of staff. One they’ve put effort and energy into training.

We aren’t talking about a sector which has no future.

Many creative people won’t return to their original jobs, but a lot will. Companies who have invested in members of staff will lose them causing disruption to these sectors at a vulnerable time.

As a recruiter, I can tell you it’s incredibly difficult to get employers to think outside the box where staff are concerned.

Sure, that candidate can do their job, but can they prove it? And can they prove they’re better at it than the person from the sector also applying.

(Quite rightly) employment law doesn’t allow organisations to choose candidates based on how hard they’re trying or how much they think they’d enjoy working with them. Employers must prove they’ve got the best person for the role.

All the competency and skills-based questioning in the world isn’t going to help Fatima prove she can do a job she’s never attempted. She can’t prove she’s better than someone who’s been on furlough in a senior role in the same sector for five months.

Reskilling, retraining, and rebooting is hugely important. We need to help people do this. But there are much better ways than nuking whole sectors and telling Ballet Dancers to work in IT.

Employability needs innovation, creativity, and thinking outside the box.

Creative industries need respect.

And human beings who have dedicated their life to their passion need support and understanding, not patronising adverts promising unlikely achievements.


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