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With the economy currently experiencing a downturn, there has been a reduction in the number of jobs available and many people are experiencing redundancy or termination of employment contracts. Unemployment is on the rise and even in industries where jobs are still plentiful, there are a huge number of candidates suddenly competing for the same scarce roles. Additionally there is a decrease in the number of traditionally low-skilled jobs available - and heavy competition from incoming workers from Eastern Europe and other countries.

The trend is now for emerging industries to require a strong transferable skills base in staff. Industries such as IT, digital and creative industries, new technology, knowledge and service based industries are burgeoning, as hard industries such as manufacturing decline. For employees, or those re-entering the jobs market, it is vital to respond to these changes and upskill in key areas.

This may involve taking technical qualifications related to your current role, or to target a new job - or to develop transferable and valuable business and personal skills such as communication, negotiation, personal presentation or customer service. Qualifications are also important and there are a vast range of vocational and technical qualifications which sit alongside the traditional academic qualifications and are as equally valued by employees.

The good news however is that career development can now be carried out in a variety of flexible ways. No longer is a person obliged to give up their full time job and return to college - there are options for day release at local centres, home learning by traditional correspondence, or online based courses with online or telephone tutor support and practical elements carried out at weekend courses.

Home based learning has always been popular. Look at providers such as Open University, ICI or any number of learning providers that advertise in specialist learning press, on TV or online. Grants are also available for many people returning to study or to develop their careers - anything from bursaries to one-off payment relief contributions provided by the government or learning agencies.

Nowadays there is also a huge range of different learning routes available using online or home based courses - some of the more traditional courses that traditionally needed to be carried out by attendance at local institutions can now be carried out in the comfort of your own home thanks to online support and interactive tutoring, with practical placements to boost theoretical knowledge where necessary. There`s something to suit everyone too - browse through course listing directories for everything from interior decorating to nursing, acrylic nail techniques, IT, languages and Home Learning Social Care Courses.

The important thing is to take action today - whether that involves simply finding out more about courses in general, or requesting brochures for courses you`ve seen and are interested in. The jobs market will only continue to move around you and competition continues to intensify - however with so many flexible and supportive learning options and courses and qualifications to interest you, there are plenty of ways to make sure you are right up there when it comes to winning those jobs!