Back in March the country saw the start of an unprecedented emergency forcing us into a lockdown situation. The lockdown was deemed necessary to protect the NHS and those most at risk in society from Covid-19.

During this time, we saw dramatic changes to how we live, not least being the closure of all schools, colleges, and universities. Here we will focus on education and look at the potential effects that the various stages of lockdown could have, not least on further education, and the consequential effects on the skills gaps being faced by many employers.

When the government announced in the middle of March that all schools, colleges, and universities would close it was hoped that this would only be for a couple of months, this however was not to be the case.

Starting at the youngest age group first, we could now be in the unfortunate position of having many children go into year one who have had no, or little, experience of reception. Children going into year three juniors without completing year two, year six going into senior school year 7 and so on.

These years are known as the formative years which is the time when children develop skills in all areas including social skills, and they take these skills with them throughout life. The time they have had away from education could have, and may continue to have, a real effect on both the educational and social skills of these young people entering adulthood.

Moving up to the older age groups the situation is no better, and young people who are now leaving school and entering either full-time further or higher education, or entering the workplace, could be doing so unprepared for the challenges that they may face. The link between schools, colleges, universities, and the workplace becomes even more apparent, and we could potentially have a generation of young people leaving education and entering the workplace without some basic skills. 

There is evidence showing that that there is already an issue with skills gaps in the workplace, and this could potentially add to an already problematic area. In addition to this there may be some companies which have used the Covid -19 restrictions as a reason not to continue with the basic employee training. This could have been with employees’ best intentions in mind, however now that certain restrictions have been eased, we need to make sure that employers are not potentially putting training at the bottom of their agenda.  Any suspension of training opportunities could have an effect in preparing the workforce for the new challenges.

There are ways we can meet these challenges and make sure that the effects of an almost universal lockdown of the educational system for 6 months will not stay with us.

Firstly, we need to start or recommence working with the employer to help identify the skills gaps facing many workforces.  Secondly, we need to put in place a robust plan which will deal with these gasps in the short, medium, and long term. Looking at areas where support can be given and liaising with educational providers who we can work with to close the skills gaps around math’s, English, and digital skills. These are basic skills that we all need to have some level of understanding.

Thirdly we also need to ensure that those leaving full time education and entering the workplace are fully supported. Ensuring that for a period of time additional support and training is given to close any skills gaps they may have developed during the 6-month educational lockdown.

In addition to this we need to ensure that the employer gets back to their everyday training program and not allow them to use the Covid-19 restrictions as an excuse for them not to fulfill their upskilling obligations.

Whatever the future may hold where the virus is concerned, we cannot afford to close education again. We must find ways of ensuring that it is delivered safely and above all it must continue otherwise the effects economically, emotionally, and socially could be severe.

The URTU Learning team can offer support, information and advice in many areas of basic skills plus vocational level 2 and CPD qualifications, we can be contacted via our website at