As the UK went into lockdown in late March 2020, few of us had ever heard the term ‘furlough’, and fewer still knew what it meant. 

But in just two short months, more than one quarter of the UK working population has been furloughed, reaching a total of 9.3 million people by the end of June, at a cost of £25.5 billion to the UK government. 

From 1 July the furlough scheme has changed, with employers no longer allowed to furlough more staff. Instead, employers are now expected to bring staff back, albeit on a gradual part-time basis for some. 

While many furloughed employees will start to return to work now that restaurants, pubs and hotels are able to re-open, until businesses are back to full capacity, many more will remain on furlough, at least part-time for the coming weeks. 

As the tremendous impact of COVID-19 on the UK economy is revealed, workers still on furlough should take advantage of this time to build on current skills or even to re-skill or re-qualify in other areas. 

For those who struggle to find time to complete accreditations or qualifications during the normal working week, furlough provides an ideal opportunity to take stock, to update skills and to gain new qualifications. 

Many construction industry trade bodies have been running online courses and CPDs for members during the past months. Training is often free and easy to access online. For more formal training and qualifications, courses that were previously available face-to-face have now been moved online – often with a reduced price-tag and increased availability. 

Meanwhile Construction Helpline is running health and safety courses, numerous NVQ courses, and CSCS card qualifications to get workers onsite faster. To apply for these courses, please take a look here

While the economic impact of COVID-19 will no doubt be severe, for those who have been considering re-training and upskilling, now is the perfect time. As the construction industry ramps up production over the coming months, with the government’s ‘Project Speed’ prioritising spending on infrastructure and construction projects, it is expected that new jobs will be created in the construction sector to fill the gap.  

Taking the time now to retrain or take new qualifications during furlough will leave individuals better prepared for an anticipated upturn in construction over the coming months.