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‘Act Now’: Boris Johnson warned workers to be made jobless by coronavirus cannot get retraining

The Independent logo The Independent 02/07/2020 Rob Merrick
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No retraining is available to give workers facing unemployment because of the pandemic a “lifeline” back into new jobs, a study warns today.

A £3bn government pot for skills announced last year has yet to be allocated – even as the UK faces a feared jobless count of 4.5 million by the end of the year, it says.

Now Boris Johnson is urged to release the funds as his “number one priority”, amid fears the Treasury could try to claw it back as coronavirus opens up a huge budget ‘black hole’.

The call comes as a new analysis reveals the jobs shakeout is punishing lower-skilled staff the hardest, those in accommodation, food services, wholesale and retail – where postings have plunged by almost half.

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Meanwhile, a third of workers from the poorest backgrounds say they cannot afford any training courses on offer, rising to 59 per cent among those already without jobs.

The City & Guilds Group, a not-for profit group providing skills training, said it would be “impossible” to meet the huge need without the promised £3bn.

Kirstie Donnelly, its chief executive, told The Independent: “We don’t know what has happened to it.

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“It was hailed by the government as evidence that it did care about skills, even with the problems we had pre-Covid, but there has been no talk of it since it was announced last year.”

In a week of the announcement of huge job losses, she warned that “mass unemployment will scar the futures of a generation if left unchecked”.

“We couldn’t even deliver what was needed before Covid. We have got no chance with the scale of need that is now going to hit us,” Ms Donnelly added.

“There is no more time to consult. We have both the means to make this happen and the evidence to prove how much it is needed. This is our ‘Act Now’ moment.

And Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the Commons education committee said: “The correct allocation of funds and investment in apprenticeships, further education and skills must be the number one priority.”

The warnings come amid criticism of the prime minister for failing to explain a pledge of an apprenticeship for all young people affected by coronavirus.

College leaders have already warned they face a disastrous £2bn income loss next year and that some will go bust unless the government delivers emergency help.

In its report, the City & Guilds Group calls on ministers to:

* Urgently release the £3bn “unspent” from the National Skills Fund for retraining – as well as create bite-sized courses and pay apprentices wages in the short term.

* Help fund online learning opportunities with employers and education providers.

* Use some of the NSF to create ‘lifelong learning and employment hubs’ in the worst-hit regions, to support reskilling back into jobs.

FE colleges have been left out of the £1bn for student catch-up programmes, a decision branded “indefensible” by David Hughes, the chief executive of the Association of Colleges.


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