The future of jobs after COVID

What seems to be happening to jobs in the Leeds City Region?

Coming out of lockdown, sectors doing well include IT and digital, warehouse pickers/delivery drivers, supermarkets/grocery retail, drivers, and cleaners and sectors struggling included non-food retail, pubs and restaurants, events, and travel.  Sales of goods have changedice cream, guitars, pianos, recording equipment sales have gone up and shampoo, deodorant and other personal care sales have gone down.

  • Advanced manufacturing companies that can change quickly, have done better than many companies in the crisis. This sector is likely to speed up its automation and work more closely with its supply chain - other companies that make the parts they use. Larger companies may want to have a closer relationship with their suppliers, meaning a return to the use of some local UK companies. However, they will also expect their supply chain to be more adaptable both in the use of technology and in the people employed, which would lead to a demand for better skilled workers, working flexibly for a number of companies. The government is producing a Manufacturing Institute of Technology (MIT) report that will build on the work of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and other universities' research centres, with the aim of bringing more high skilled jobs to northern towns.

  • The UK textiles industry has done better than some industries during COVID, with an increase in demand for its products, particularly for PPE but also from garment suppliers and home sewers, as the need for a secure supply chain has become important. The industry will look to spread its risk by moving some manufacturing back to the UK. There may be a return to producing better quality garments that last longer. The recycling of garments and materials may also increase grow faster.

  • Digital, team and communication skills will be even more important across all industries/sectors to deal with more online working, working from home and automation. Short, simple video production may become part of some jobs, so understanding branding and understanding your organisation's style/presentation will be important.

  • The trend towards self-employment is also likely to continue, especially as a way for individuals to help themselves out of the crisis; entrepreneurial skills will therefore be important. Entrepreneurial skills are also becoming important within all companies. The current speed of change means that companies need more people who can move fast, think quick, and come up with ideas and respond to change quickly.

  • Clean energy/waste management/biodegradable product developments have gone ahead with new projects during COVID. The largest base for this in the North is the Humber region but there are also companies in the Leeds City Region, such as WSP Leeds office, the civil engineering and environmental consultancy. The number of environmental and conservation-related jobs was already growing but COVID has increased interest in the environment and the need for change.

  • Construction skills are in short supply, particularly electrical, carpentry, plumbing and building skills. However, the industry is changing, so the craft/technician skills are changing too. Increasingly buildings are being constructed in factories and these modular constructions are then assembled on site. More smart home technology is being developed, using mobile phones to control appliances, heating and more of this technology is being used in new homes.

  • Health and social care jobs are likely to grow to deal not only with COVID but also the reduction in use of migrant workers, particularly from the EU, an aging population and the real threat of future pandemics. There are still shortages of nurses and other health professionals. There are also new jobs within our health service, such as physician associates, performing some of the tasks previously done by doctors and medical associates, working alongside other healthcare professionals. The current crisis has meant that we are likely to see upskilling of social care staff and a need for more public health workers, offering advice to both the public and organisations.

  • The creative industries, though struggling at the moment, are generally growing. Advertising and design agencies seem to have done relatively better recently, than some other companies. There is also a growing interest in crafts. TV, film and video production is a small but growing sector. Future live performance may also include more use of technology in its promotion or to attract a wider audience online and in cinemas.

  • IT companies have also done better than many sectors, as other companies have needed help in getting their staff working from home and adapting their automated manufacturing systems. Demand has been growing for software engineers, web developers and specialists in online security .

  • Demand for warehouse staff and drivers has also gone up, due to an increase in online shopping - to around 30% of total sales, which would also suggest that the demand for logistics specialists may also grow.

  • Before COVID artisan cafes, and food and drink producers - beer, coffee, meat and nonmeat products - were growing in importance. As restaurant chains have closed some of their sites to cope, the growth in artisan entrepreneurs is likely to grow at a faster rate.

  • Interest in healthy living and keeping fit has been on the increase and has accelerated during COVID. The need for fitness and physical and mental health instructors is likely to increase, some of whom will operate online.

Other small but growing areas include:

- Biotech, technology and research companies are growing in the region with Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester having hubs/centres of excellence. Some of this development is beginning to move out into the surrounding towns.
- Sheffield is the next biggest region outside London in video games development and Sumo Digital is the biggest gaming company in our region. Also growing is esport – electronic sports competitions using video games where professional gamers known as eathletes compete and are trained by ecoaches. Many of the larger real sports clubs eg football and rugby are sponsoring eteams, members of which are expected to train and look after their bodies, like physical sports teams.
- Vegan, vegetarian food producers and 'free from' manufacturing companies are expanding in the region and have done better during COVID

Sources: C&K News issues, BBC, the Guardian and a range of government and private research organisations and think tanks). See also the World Economic forum report on the UK W:


Page updated September 2020

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