James Reed, Chairman, REED Recruitment

The coronavirus induced lockdown has had a seismic effect on the jobs market. The Bank of England recently predicted the unemployment rate in the UK could hit 7.5% by the end of the year.

With the Job Retention Scheme coming to an end on the 31st of October, the government has had to announce a series of new measures and initiatives to combat the threat of rising unemployment and to support workers who want to move into new sectors.

Just over a week after Rishi Sunak announced the introduction of the Jobs Support Scheme, the government brought forward additional measures that would be used to combat long-term unemployment.

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee was brought in to boost the adult education sector, while the Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) scheme was created to deliver advice and support to those who may be finding it difficult to secure a new job.

It’s important to understand why these measures have been brought in, the value they will deliver, and the support needed for them to become a success.

If implemented correctly, they will help to move the UK out of its current economic black hole and into a brighter future.

The economic outlook

The Chancellor’s statement in mid-September was received with some disappointment in certain sectors of the business world. The ending of the furlough scheme and launch of the Jobs Support Scheme was met with those that have been badly affected by the pandemic and who felt it didn’t deliver the kind of targeted support they needed.

The grim reality is that the government is obviously unable to save every job in the current economy. Certain businesses that are not allowed to operate normally due to the pandemic will, unfortunately, have to close or make some redundancies.

The government has understood that we need to move workers into more viable roles. Boris Johnson's announcements on reskilling and retraining are a clear signal that the government wants to deliver support for the unemployed and help people transfer to new industries.

Lifetime skills guarantee

The government announced a £2.5bn investment in its Lifetime Skills Guarantee which will go into funding for adult education. The scheme will offer all those without A-level or equivalent qualifications the opportunity to take up a fully-funded college course.

This is a positive move from the government. It understands it cannot save every job but can deliver support to job seekers by offering opportunities to retrain and reskill in a different sector – a crucial tool to accelerate the recovery and adapt our economy to the new reality.

There’s undoubtedly an appetite for jobseekers to upskill - at REED we’ve seen a huge increase in those taking up online courses, with certain vocational courses, such as “Teaching young learners online” increasing by over 900% during lockdown. Adding an extra qualification can help to enhance and update CVs and shows initiative, ensuring you stand out in a crowded market.

The government understands most people don’t want to become unemployed for a lengthy period. The Lifetime Skills Guarantee shows the government wants to support workers who are willing to learn and move into more economically viable sectors and roles.

Support Networks

Further Education colleges will also be critical, providing opportunities and training for many adults across the country. It is time for these colleges to step forward and continue to contribute to the growing need for upskilling and retraining.

The private sector will also have a key role to play in delivering support to workers as well. The government's JETS scheme is looking to help those who have been unemployment for three months or more, with skills and support to improve their job prospects.

This can be anything from CV and interview advice to improving self-confidence. REED is helping deliver this scheme in South London and the North East of England, by offering access to specialist employment advisers.

The support both the education and private sector will offer is vital to the success of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee scheme. Even though the jobs market is currently experiencing testing times, access to support from these institutions should help to drive down unemployment by improving reskilling and retraining opportunities for those looking for work.

The combination of these recently announced measures is a positive step. Additional funding to the adult education sector combined with working with private businesses to deliver employment support will be critical to a successful and speedy recovery of the jobs market. Through collaboration, resilience and creativity from businesses and job seekers, we will move on from the coronavirus pandemic into a new and dynamic economy.

James Reed, Chairman of REED

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