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COVID Diaries: Claire Toogood on adapting skills to unprecedented scenarios

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1 June 2020

As we adapt to the changes Covid-19 has created in our everyday lives, it is important to reflect on the transferable skills we already have to help us through this unusual time.

Claire Toogood, lecturer in the Land, Farm and Agribusiness Management Department, teaches a final year module called ‘Leadership and People Management’ and has shared how the valuable skills from a degree that matters have become even more vital in the last few weeks.

As businesses and individuals come to terms with the impact of Covid-19, teaching our students how to manage people effectively through difficult times has never been more relevant. 

When I started work as a Lecturer in October 2019, I could not have anticipated what this academic year would bring. People management challenges such as flexible working, supporting remote teams, furloughing staff and managing sickness absence now regularly appear in news headlines, as companies make critical staffing decisions on a daily basis. The issues and topics covered in this module are a key part of the business response to the challenges of Covid-19.

While many sectors are struggling with lockdown, the situation for food and retail is genuinely unprecedented. Companies have had to launch mass recruitment within a tight timeframe to continue to keep our shelves stocked and the nation fed. From their studies in this module, our final year students appreciate and understand the challenge of recruiting and selecting large numbers of new staff and training them to do a range of vital jobs.

The topics that we have covered this year are crucial to businesses surviving and thriving in these exceptional times. Our exploration of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and employee wellbeing took place just a week before our campus had to close down all but essential functions in order to keep our students and staff safe. This real-life example of the ethical responsibility an organisation has to all of its stakeholders mirrors our learning in class.

As our students complete their studies, many of them will move straight into jobs in the food chain and take on a key role in continuing to feed the UK. The challenges for the sector continue most recently with nationwide campaigns launching to ensure a workforce is ready to pick, prepare and deliver seasonal crops. I fully expect our students, and soon-to-be graduates, will be ready to play their part in managing the UK’s response to this challenge!

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