As an effect of the Covid-19 crisis, demand for in-service training and retraining has surged; advanced technical and professional skills, general skills such as digital literacy, communication and teamwork skills, are becoming increasingly important, while focus has shifted to education goal setting and learning outcomes acquisition in VET, according to a new study on the effects of Covid-19 by OSKA, the labour market monitoring and future skills forecasting system.

In VET, transition to distance learning was relatively smooth. Problems have arisen with respect to organising work placements and practical training via digital technology. The priorities of teaching changed and focus shifted from teaching classes to acquiring learning outcomes.

‘The virus crisis is providing the impetus for automation and digitisation,’ said Yngve Rosenblad, OSKA’s head analyst. There is a growing need for people with technical skills, while automation is reducing the number of operators and unskilled workers. Workers need to improve their digital skills as well as their risk management, product development, marketing, management, communication and cooperation skills, in order to cope with the crisis successfully. Demand for general and professional technical skills is shifting from the level of VET to the level of professional higher education. Moreover, advanced digital skills and a knowledge of foreign languages are also required for the professional development of a skilled workforce.

According to Rosenblad, demand for in-service training and retraining has surged as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The crisis has led to a decrease in employment: the number of people in employment had fallen by 25 000 (-3.8%) in Q3 of 2020 compared to a year before. Given the flexible nature of the Estonian labour market, the country stood out among other Member States with a higher than average number of jobs lost in Q2 and nearly the highest number of lost jobs in Q3. Most jobs were lost in industries that employ mainly young people – the service, hospitality, catering and tourism sectors. Youth unemployment surged: 21.7% of 15- to 24-year-olds active in the labour market were unemployed in Q3. In 2021, employment is expected to fall in construction and industry. In contrast, the number of people employed in ICT, finance, health and social care, public administration and education, increased.

According to Mait Palts, Director General of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the study offers ideas for career changes for those who have lost their job due to the crisis. ‘In recovering from the crisis, our ability to help those people who have lost their job due to the new circumstances, adapting will play a key role. This can be done, for instance, by offering people opportunities to retrain, and to develop their knowledge and skills to help them find a new place in our economy,’ said Palts. People with experience in the sectors of hospitality, catering and tourism, as well as the rest of the service sector, may benefit from retraining aimed to help them enter social and health care or real estate professions. Excellent language skills can also help them find a job as a customer support specialist in several industries.

See a summary of the study in English