Funding to retrain up to 40,000 workers at risk of redundancy has been announced as personnel managers warn Britain could face 600,000 job losses this year.
An extra Pounds 158 million taken from Train to Gain and the European Social Fund is intended to provide short-term training to help people back into work. It will also provide more careers advice, help employers taking on new staff and colleges to respond to local redundancies, the Government said.
But forecasts from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggest the extra aid will be dwarfed by the 600,000 job losses expected this year. Those redundancies are predicted to come on top of some 150,000 jobs lost in the past six months.
The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said the fund was meant to ensure more training money was targeted at those who had recently lost their jobs rather than the long-term unemployed.
A department spokesman said it was only part of a total Pounds 4.5 billion of spending on adult education and skills. He added: "This is about short- term funding specifically for pre-employment training. It's in addition to the public funding already available for vocational courses."
A guide to good practice in supporting employers and communities during the downturn, FE Works, said colleges could use the situation to improve workers' skills to help them compete in a more demanding marketplace.
Some have been working in industries that were quickly and severely affected by the economy. Hull College is working with caravan and trailer manufacturers who have seen a huge fall in sales and many have moved to four or three-day weeks.
"More than ever, flexibility in when, where and how training is delivered is key to how the FE system needs to support employers," said the guide, produced by the Governnment with colleges and training providers.
Others are addressing the long-term unemployed. Bury College created a customised Skills for Jobs course to help them apply for jobs at a new Morrisons supermarket.
With skills designed specifically for the store, including company history, customer care and confidence building, all candidates were guaranteed an interview.
A similar programme for 300 participants at Stoke College with a series of retail chains has had an 80 per cent success rate at helping them back into work. Many examples involve colleges using employers to identify people who need new skills, suggesting it will be crucial for colleges to be in contact with business before job cuts are made.
North Hertfordshire College has created a Rapid Response to Redundancy service in Stevenage with the local authority, offering a single point of contact for employers and people facing redundancy.
Others are assessing the skills needs of workers identified for redundancy before they leave, such as Hull College, which is working with the first 120 of 450 people expected to lose jobs at BAe.
The year ahead for FE, page 6.