Over six million workers in Britain have already been placed on the government’s furlough scheme in response to the COVID-19 crisis – where workers are temporarily laid off and 80 percent of their wages are covered by the state.
Although parts of Europe are slowly beginning to re-open, the economic impact will continue to be felt. Since the country-wide lockdown was announced in Britain on 23 March, the public health disaster has spiralled into an economic one; with the Bank of England warning that unemployment could be set to double, and that 14% could be wiped from GDP during 2020.
Travel website Trivago, which has used the scheme, this month reported a more than 95% reduction in referral revenue in the final week of the first quarter, according to Skift, and has told investors it would be making “changes to our organisational setup” plus “significant” cuts to jobs.
Codeworks CEO and founder Alessandro Zanardi thinks time under lockdown could be well spent trying to close the digital skills gap, which is only widening.
“The digital skills gap has hamstrung the UK economy for decades, and this is a once in a generation opportunity to take a giant stride towards fixing it,” he said.
According to figures from the European Commission last year, which of course do not reflect the COVID-19 crisis, in 2020 there will be 756,000 unfulfilled IT jobs across Europe. The World Economic Forum, meanwhile, has predicted that there should be global jobs growth of 133 million by 2022 as a result of the “division of labour between humans and machines”.
After the initial shock of the COVID-19 crisis, Zanardi says the company quickly began wondering what it could do to help.
“Obviously we couldn’t make masks or respirators,” he said. “But one thing we know how to do well is helping people learn to code – so maybe what we can do is help a lot of people who are locked at home, have lost their job, or are temporarily unemployed, to learn something new that’s going to be useful, or that adds value when they go back to their regular work.”
He added that the pandemic has highlighted a general lack of preparedness around digital skills, and that Codeworks would not rule out working with governments on initiatives to promote technical remote learning as the crisis continues.
As well as private companies offering their services to tackle the pandemic, many universities and their presses have offered learning materials online for free.
Individuals interested in signing up to the Codeworks course can do so here.