In a new briefing note, Cedefop indicates the growing significance of the interplay between work and learning in the era of COVID-19.

The document presents selected results of the European survey of companies conducted by Cedefop and Eurofound in 2019 and 2020. Half of the surveyed companies declared that a substantial share of jobs requires frequent and regular training as a result of fast changing skills requirements in the companies. In 2019, changes in skills requirements were most pronounced in the financial services sector, while least noticeable in the industry sector. The pandemic, the need to maintain social distance and finally lockdowns negatively influenced participation in training – in 2019, the share of companies providing training to a fair share of their staff was around 65%, but in 2020, it dropped to 45%.

The pandemic changed how we work, with the use of telework, the digitalisation of internal business processes and the need for high-skilled workers on the rise. In 2019, two in three surveyed firms did not have any staff teleworking. At the peak of the pandemic in 2020, almost 70% of companies had in place telework arrangements for some or all of their staff. This change is positively received by the employers - 55% of surveyed employers expect the share of teleworking employees to stay the same in the next three years, while 14% expect a further increase in this mode of working.

Enabling staff to telework is not the only change faced by the companies due to the pandemic. One-third of surveyed companies experienced substantial changes in their core business activities, often coinciding with shrinking employment. Around 87% of companies changed their physical infrastructure to comply with pandemic-induced health and safety regulations, while 83% introduced organisational changes because of this. Restrictions and the need to maintain social distance has forced many service companies to change how they contact their clients and according to the declarations from the surveyed companies, these changes are here to stay.

The authors of the briefing note emphasise that jobs do not only shape learning: learning also shapes jobs. As employees broaden their knowledge and skills, they often influence the way their tasks are performed as well as the tasks themselves, which makes their jobs more interesting and motivating. The pandemic has contributed to an awareness among enterprises of this mutual influence of learning and work – in 2020, 61% of surveyed companies declared that they tried to create an environment in which employees can autonomously perform their tasks and manage their priorities. One year earlier, only 36% of companies declared that some members of their staff could organise their work independently.

The briefing note is available at Cedefop’s webpage.