The government must invest billions in supporting those who have lost their jobs owing to the coronavirus pandemic back into work, a group of experts has said.
The group – made up of former government advisors, labour market experts, research institutes, think tanks and organisations including the Association of Colleges, the Learning and Work Institute and the Institute for Employment Studies – urges the government to take urgent action or risk creating a "pandemic generation" of young people with poorer education and employment prospects.
The comments come as the experts say they expect the Office for National Statistics to confirm today that claimant unemployment has increased to its highest level since the mid-1990s. The group says the government must tackle the fastest spike in unemployment on record or risk permanent damage to the economy and people’s livelihoods.
WorldSkills UK: Our emergency package of support
The group calls for five key actions:
Targeted tapering of emergency support
Furloughed workers who lose their jobs as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is withdrawn between August and October must be provided with support to find new work.
Investing up to £800 million to scale up back-to-work support for the newly unemployed
This investment would mobilise Jobcentre Plus work coaches, the recruitment industry and local and voluntary sector employment and training services to get people back to work quickly, says the group.
Ensure the long-term unemployed and disadvantaged are not left behind
Up to £2.4 billion should be invested in personalised support alongside access to training, volunteering and other specialist help and national and local government must work with employers and civic society to address this.
Education and employment promise for young people
Everyone leaving education this year should be guaranteed support to find work or a place in education or training. That should include intensive employment support for all unemployed young people, underpinned by a £1 billion Jobs Guarantee for those out-of-work for the longest, the expert group says.
Building for the future
The UK should plan now for how to level up access to well paid, high-quality work based on understanding the future of the labour market, and ensure world-class employment and skills services for all young people and adults.
'Five years of employment growth wiped out'
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that colleges will be central to improving skills and job prospects.
He said: “Urgent action is needed to support young people leaving education this summer as they face unprecedented challenges in finding jobs and to help those being made redundant.
"Colleges will be central to the training, skills and education offer that will help people improve their skills and job prospects. They will also work with employers to help them get the skilled people they need to stay in business.”
Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, said that research shows that five years of employment growth was wiped out in one month.
He added: “The government’s actions have prevented things being worse. But we need to act now to prevent permanent damage to our economy: investing in young people; mobilising back-to-work support; and making sure we help those left behind before the crisis.”