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Covid UK: Pandemic sparks surge in demand for ‘safe’ careers as 60,000 apply for nursing courses

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More than 60,000 students have applied to study nursing as the coronavirus crisis drives tens of thousands to ‘safer’ and secure careers including medicine, engineering and architecture. 

Sign ups for courses in nursing surged by almost a third (32 per cent) this year to a total of 60,130 applicants, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Applications for medicine and dentistry soared from 103,910 to 124,160, and for engineering, from 148,450 to 154,970 – while the numbers applying for courses in teaching and architecture are also up.

Thousands of students have turned their backs on subjects such as languages, history, philosophy and classics, in a hint that many are looking to get onto ‘safer’, more concrete career paths.

It follows the economic turmoil of the last year caused by coronavirus and lockdowns, with a new think tank report finding that nearly two million having been unable to work for at least six months after losing their jobs in the pandemic or being placed on furlough. 

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that these trends could be ‘maintained for a while’, adding that a ‘Covid-linked recession’ could ‘push people towards public service jobs’.

He added that the pandemic had changed the perception of nursing which is now being seen as ‘prestigious’, following a huge dip in applications following the removal of bursaries in 2017.  

‘There is a sense that technology may eat away at other jobs, such as middle management. But caring professions are likely to continue being in demand,’ Mr Hillman told the Times. 

Mike Adams, director for England at the Royal College of Nursing, hailed the figures, which will go some way to combatting the staff shortages that afflict much of the NHS.

Sign ups for courses in nursing surged by almost a third (32 per cent) this year to a total of 60,130 applicants, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)

Sign ups for courses in nursing surged by almost a third (32 per cent) this year to a total of 60,130 applicants, according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS)

Applications for engineering increased 148,450 to 154,970 - while the numbers applying for courses in teaching and architecture are also up

Applications for engineering increased 148,450 to 154,970 – while the numbers applying for courses in teaching and architecture are also up

‘Today’s nursing staff are clearly inspiring those of the future,’ he said. ‘Their professionalism and dedication in the last 12 months has clearly encouraged even more people determined to join a diverse and fulfilling career. 

‘This is a welcome boost in applications but follows a number of years of decline since the removal of Government support for tuition fees and living costs.’ 

However Mr Adams warned that the boost is ‘still not at the scale that is needed’ and even greater efforts would be required to fill all vacant nursing jobs. 

There are currently no Government caps on university nursing places.

The number of those opting for nursing straight after leaving school has increased by 27 per cent from last year to a record 16,560.

And more than 10,000 mature students aged 35 or over want to study the subject this year – a rise of 39 per cent on 2020.

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for NHS England, said there had been a ‘Nightingale effect’, which ‘speaks volumes about how people recognise our profession, particularly following our most challenging year’.

‘This surge in interest from people – of all ages – wanting to study nursing is incredible, and is great news for the public and the health service,’ she said.

‘During Covid-19, the level of interest in working for the NHS has trumped lots of other careers options, and that speaks volumes about how people recognise our profession, particularly following our most challenging year.’

Clare Marchant, UCAS chief executive, said: ‘The amazing work of our NHS continues to inspire people of all ages into fulfilling and rewarding careers, helping those in most need as we emerge from the pandemic.

‘Overall, applications are buoyant as students plan their futures for life after lockdown. 

‘We expect offer rates to remain at the high levels of recent years as universities and colleges have several months to plan and be flexible to accommodate the increase in applicants.’

The number of applications for dentistry increased last year from 103,910 to 124,160

The number of applications for dentistry increased last year from 103,910 to 124,160

Thousands of students have turned their backs on subjects such as languages, history, philosophy and classics, in a hint that many are looking for 'safer' career

Thousands of students have turned their backs on subjects such as languages, history, philosophy and classics, in a hint that many are looking for ‘safer’ career

Overall, a record 42.6 per cent of all 18-year-olds applied to university – with figures showing a small increase in applications from the most disadvantaged areas. 

Students from the most deprived postcodes accounted for 26.4 per cent of applications, up from 24.5 per cent. 

Applications from students in the EU fell by 40 per cent compared with last year as the effect of Brexit on universities began to bite. 

EU students would formerly have paid the same tuition fees as Britons under the bloc’s higher education arrangements but they now have to pay the higher rates of overseas tuition. Applications from China and India rose by 21 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.  

Other subjects that have seen a growth in popularity include dentistry, sports science, veterinary science and education.

Agriculture has also seen a rise in applications, indicating that a return to the land – and the desire to escape from the often cramped conditions of lockdowns to the countryside – may have played a part in their choice. 

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said: ‘We are particularly pleased to see record numbers of applications from disadvantaged students, the increase in applications from mature students and the high demand for nursing courses. 

‘The fall in demand from EU applicants is a source of concern. 

‘The UK government and universities must continue to demonstrate how much they value European students by working together to promote the UK as a high-quality destination for study and by offering new forms of financial support.’

It comes as a new think tank report has found that nearly two million people have been unable to work for at least six months after losing their jobs in the pandemic or being placed on furlough. 

The Resolution Foundation puts the figure at 1.9 million, compared to the official 1.2 million, and says one in five of these people fear they will remain jobless or their roles will vanish when furlough stops on April 30. 

And in a further blow to the jobs market, a quarter of British businesses have said they expect to fire staff if Chancellor Rishi Sunak does not extend the taxpayer-funded furlough programme.  

A graph showing the number of people in the UK who have been unemployed or furloughed for more than six months

A graph showing the number of people in the UK who have been unemployed or furloughed for more than six months

A graph showing how many people have had some experience of unemployment of furloughing over the past year

A graph showing how many people have had some experience of unemployment of furloughing over the past year

A graph showing the number of people in the UK either partially or fully furloughed since the pandemic began

A graph showing the number of people in the UK either partially or fully furloughed since the pandemic began 

A graph showing the change in paid employee jobs in 2020 compared to February 2020  - before the first lockdown began

A graph showing the change in paid employee jobs in 2020 compared to February 2020  – before the first lockdown began

One in four UK firms plan to fire staff if furlough ends soon, say business chiefs 

A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found one in four companies will have to lay off staff unless furlough support is extended beyond April 30.

Rishi Sunak is due to deliver his annual budget on March 3 and has promised to provide more support for jobs hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

But he is also mindful that COVID-related spending has already pushed Britain’s budget deficit to its highest since World War Two. 

The furlough programme cost £46billion up to mid-December – the government’s most expensive single economic support measure.

The BCC survery also showed sales had tumbled at 61 per cent of firms in the past three months and 23 per cent risk running out of cash. 

‘It is vital that the UK government keeps financial support going until firms can reopen and rebuild,’ BCC Director General Adam Marshall said.

He added: ‘Pulling the plug now would be a huge mistake, and would be akin to writing off the billions already spent helping firms to survive.’

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The Resolution Foundation report suggests a ‘long Covid’ in the labour market will add to the after-effects of the pandemic, which are expected to include high debt levels and mental health problems.

Think tank economist Nye Cominetti said: ‘While the UK’s economic prospects are finally looking up, job insecurity remains high, particularly among those who have spent long periods not working or who are currently furloughed.

‘The Chancellor must use his Budget to set out his own roadmap for phasing out the furlough scheme gradually and in a way that acknowledges where the risks of rising unemployment are highest – in sectors like hospitality.

‘This would keep a lid on rising unemployment and encourage firms to bring back existing workers while tax breaks on hiring could help more people to move jobs too.’ 

Meanwhile, a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) found one in four companies will have to lay off staff unless furlough support is extended beyond April 30.

Rishi Sunak is due to deliver his annual budget on March 3 and has promised to provide more support for jobs hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

But he is also mindful that COVID-related spending has already pushed Britain’s budget deficit to its highest since World War Two. 

The furlough programme cost £46billion up to mid-December – the government’s most expensive single economic support measure.

The BCC survey also showed sales had tumbled at 61 per cent of firms in the past three months and 23 per cent risk running out of cash. 

‘It is vital that the UK government keeps financial support going until firms can reopen and rebuild,’ BCC Director General Adam Marshall said.

He added: ‘Pulling the plug now would be a huge mistake, and would be akin to writing off the billions already spent helping firms to survive.’

A major leap in worklessness after the pandemic would end almost a decade of record high employment levels and introduce economic pressures and pains that have not been seen since the banking collapse of the late 2000s.

The Resolution Foundation report said that last month 700,000 workers had been unemployed for at least six months and a further 500,000 had been on full furlough, working no hours at all, for the same period. 

But it said that because people have been moving between unemployment and furlough, the real number who had not worked since the summer of 2020 was 1.9 million.

A poll taken by YouGov among nearly 6,400 people late in January found that eight per cent of those in work were worried about unemployment over the next three months or had been told they would be redundant when lockdown lifts.

But among furloughed workers 21 per cent expect to lose their jobs.

Yesterday the UK recorded 12,718 new coronavirus cases and 738 deaths

Yesterday the UK recorded 12,718 new coronavirus cases and 738 deaths

Staff will still be told not to return to their offices even as infections fall and Covid-19 restrictions are lifted 

Office staff are set to be told to keep working from home even as other lockdown restrictions are eased.

Boris Johnson is not expected to give a firm date for when workers will return to their desks as he unveils his plans for a return to normality on Monday.

It means the ‘work from home if you can’ message will continue to guide employers for the foreseeable future.

But ahead of any return, companies are reportedly drafting ‘no jab, no job’ contracts to force staff to get Covid-19 vaccinations.

Bosses in the care home sector as well as large international groups including an energy firm are making arrangements, top lawyers warned.

It comes as it emerged all adults could be offered two jabs by August because supplies are surging.

Many large firms have already told staff they should work remotely, with some even delaying a return to the office until at least the end of the year.

However, some studies claim that productivity is hampered as workers log in from their kitchen table rather than at their desk.

 

 

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It comes as office staff are set to be told to keep working from home even as other lockdown restrictions are eased.

Boris Johnson is not expected to give a firm date for when workers will return to their desks as he unveils his plans for a return to normality on Monday.

It means the ‘work from home if you can’ message will continue to guide employers for the foreseeable future.

But ahead of any return, companies are reportedly drafting ‘no jab, no job’ contracts to force staff to get Covid-19 vaccinations.

Bosses in the care home sector as well as large international groups including an energy firm are making arrangements, top lawyers warned.

It comes as it emerged all adults could be offered two jabs by August because supplies are surging.

Many large firms have already told staff they should work remotely, with some even delaying a return to the office until at least the end of the year.

However, some studies claim that productivity is hampered as workers log in from their kitchen table rather than at their desk.

Meanwhile, anti-lockdown Tories yesterday piled further pressure on Boris Johnson to lift restrictions, telling him experts say the numbers don’t justify keeping Britain closed until July.

The Prime Minister has vowed to use ‘data not dates’ when deciding how and when to end the measures in place to control the spread of coronavirus, but is facing a growing backlash from business chiefs and MPs.

The vaccine rollout has helped slash the number of deaths and infections, but the PM is being regularly reminded of the social cost of lockdown, amid fears firms unable to open under current restrictions will soon collapse.    

Mark Woolhouse, an Edinburgh University expert in infectious disease, told MPs yesterday that ‘if you’re driven by the data and not by dates, right now, you should be looking at earlier unlocking’.

Steve Baker, a member of the 70-strong anti-lockdown Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, used the professor’s comments to pile further pressure on the Prime Minister to accelerate his plans.

He said: ‘Boris Johnson today rightly confirmed he will focus on ‘data, not dates’ for easing restrictions as our recent letter suggested. As Professor Woolhouse, a senior government scientific adviser, says, the data are looking so good that Britain may open earlier.’ 

The Mail revealed yesterday that – under a blueprint discussed with industry chiefs – the hospitality, holiday and leisure sectors might not return to normal until July. 

Business chiefs and MPs demanded an accelerated time frame out of lockdown from Boris Johnson in a bid to save firms

Business chiefs and MPs demanded an accelerated time frame out of lockdown from Boris Johnson in a bid to save firms

Scientists urge ministers to agree on an ‘acceptable’ number of Covid-19 infections that the country could live with as a tolerable risk 

Scientists have pleaded with ministers to give them an ‘acceptable’ number of Covid infections that Britain is prepared to live with, said one government expert yesterday.

Professor Dame Angela McLean said that a ‘sensible discussion’ was needed about a tolerable level of risk from Covid.

‘One of the things we have cried out for again and again, is could somebody in a position of political power tell us what is an acceptable number of infections,’ she said.

‘We do need to decide what level we feel is acceptable, and then we can manage our lives with that in mind.’

Dame Angela, chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), was giving evidence to the Commons science and technology committee.

Many of those worried about the collateral effects of lockdowns have already suggested that Britain must learn to live with the virus like it does with other illnesses.

Another expert told the committee that the public will want their normal lives back once everyone has been vaccinated.

Professor Sir John Bell, who advises the UK’s vaccine taskforce, said: ‘It’s not plausible to imagine a world where we vaccinate the whole country and everybody believes they’re still in the place that we were in six months ago.’

The expert, who is regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, asked MPs to think about a situation where very few people died, no one was admitted to hospital and there was no long-Covid, which vaccines might have an impact upon.

‘People will feel – with some justification in my view – that they would like to get back to a relatively normal way of life, and we are going to have to get used to that,’ he said.

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But the Prime Minister will today receive a dossier of data which will help shape his roadmap out of lockdown.

Despite his ‘data not dates’ pledge, the package of information will reportedly earmark the earliest possible opportunity to reopen shops and pubs, as well as a first look at the effectiveness of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.

Those numbers will then be crunched in meetings with trusted aides and Cabinet ministers over the weekend, to add the finishing touches to his new masterplan, according to the Sun

On Monday morning, it will be checked over by the full Cabinet, before being presented to MPs ahead of a press conference in which he will address the nation that evening.

This week Mr Johnson appeared to confirm a cautious timetable, saying he would take a ‘prudent’ approach and suggesting that pubs and restaurants would be among the last places to reopen.

An Imperial College London surveillance study – the largest in the country – found infection rates are halving every two weeks, with cases set to fall to 1,000 a day by the second week of April.  

Piling the pressure on the Prime Minister, Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 committee of Tory MPs, said: ‘The presumption should be that people are given back control over their own lives and we move from a world of arbitrary regulation to one where we are able to take responsibility for ourselves and each other.’

William Lees-Jones, owner of pub group JW Lees, which has 1,250 staff, said: ‘Ministers just don’t understand that this is an industry that is on its knees. Even after the end of March there will be a huge number of businesses that fail.

‘We’ve invested in the pubs to keep them safe, the vaccine will make a massive difference, and if pubs are not open then people will meet up illegally.’

Clive Watson, of City Pub Group, said: ‘While we fully support the Government’s efforts to get the virus under control, we must get to a stage, once the over-50s have been vaccinated, where we start to lift restrictions so people can once again meet for a drink or a meal with friends.’

Experts yesterday called on ministers to decide what an ‘acceptable’ number of infections would be so that Britain could move on from the pandemic.

Professor Angela McLean, chief scientific adviser at the Ministry of Defence, said they were ‘crying out’ for clarity.

And Sir John Bell, who advises the UK’s vaccine taskforce, said people wanted their normal lives back and would not accept certain coronavirus restrictions after everyone has been vaccinated.

Mr Johnson will be presented with the latest data as soon as this evening and will chair a meeting of senior Cabinet ministers over the weekend to finalise the plans for Monday’s launch of the roadmap out of the national lockdown.

The Mail revealed that a blueprint discussed by officials and industry leaders would see rules eased every four weeks after a ‘limited’ loosening at Easter.

Hospitality would have to wait until early May for the green light to resume restricted trading, with the rule of six applying right through June and potentially into July.

On a visit to South Wales yesterday, Mr Johnson said his plan would ‘be based firmly on a cautious and prudent approach to coming out of lockdown in such a way as to be irreversible’.

He added: ‘There is obviously an extra risk of transmission from hospitality.’

It comes as Britain today confirmed 12,718 new coronavirus cases and 738 deaths amid signs that the country’s outbreak may have stopped shrinking.

This post was first published on DailyMail.

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