The pandemic has reinforced that a ‘job for life’ may not be a possibility and we need to be flexible to adapt to the changing landscape – there is an opportunity for workers to train in skills for new jobs. As millions of people across the UK are on furlough, or have been made redundant, creating a tailored job re-skilling scheme would be a solution to tap into the resource pool of individuals that are at home and struggling to find work and support them – a UK Skills Programme.
The UK Skills Programme would require the government to find as many of the pool of people affected by unemployment and create a central register of this pool. The government can use information from local councils and utility companies to find the businesses that have been shut down and those employees affected from unemployment, to create this central register of people who are eligible to be re-trained. Using this data, the UK Skills Programme would set up a training scheme for those who are unemployed or on furlough, to learn new skills in growth industries, such as in robotics, and technology (data science, AI) as an example. This opportunity presents a potential for having a large pool of people eligible and ready for retraining at the same time.
This skills programme could be set up as a new unit as part of the Department of Work and Pensions under ‘Retraining/Reskilling Unit’ focused on promoting Britain post-Brexit and ensuring that the talent and pool of resources is fully used to the benefit of the whole country.
A central online forum can be set up where profiles of the retained pool of talent are advertised and make it easier for companies to know that these people are retrained and seeking employment. To finance this scheme, the government can use state funds, instead of paying employers to subside their employees’ salaries on the furlough scheme. The most cost-efficient model for the scheme will have to be researched.
The programme would be run by industry/business leaders who can work with companies to design the courses. The government can pay universities and colleges to run the courses. The training would be a mix of online training and physical in-person training (when the situation allows it in), and the training would be split into different specialist streams to segment those according to their qualifications and aptitude. In order to apply to the scheme, individuals would have to take an aptitude and interest test to work out how best their skills can be used, and is not based on any prior academic background or university degrees. Individuals would be paid a universal amount to retrain and help them get jobs. The government would give the necessary subsidies to them, like an apprenticeship until an individual is ready to find a new job. For those who have a specific interest in continuing working in a job sector or industry or have prior experience working in it, there will be an option to gain an enhanced skill training in that sector, so that they can improve their skills and qualifications.
This skills scheme would be like employment schemes introduced in Singapore, providing skills support to the employees that have been hard hit by the pandemic. Benefits for trainees would include a monthly training allowance for the duration of the programme (up to 6,8 and 12 weeks, depending on the nature of the workstream/skill set), flexibility to leave the programme should trainees gain employment before the end of the programme and a fully paid course fee with the materials provided for them. This scheme would be eligible for all British residents who have the rights to work in the UK, over 16 and are seeking employment. Benefits for companies to incentivise them to hire trainees from the UK Skills Programme would include for ages 40 and below can receive 20% salary support for 6 months. Employers who hire trainees age 40 and over can receive 40% salary support for 6 months, as an example.
Upon completion of the programme, individuals will achieve a government accredited certification which is nationally recognised by employers: ‘UK Skills Programme Diploma’. In order to ensure that individuals complete the course, there will be stop gaps put in place, such as requiring a short test/presentation reviews on the module, which has to be completed in order to progress further in the course and training sessions.
Mass-training has the potential opportunity for individuals to have a skills refresh, undergo enhanced training and support Britain’s ‘build back better’ initiative. In the same way that the COVID-19 vaccine movement was rolled out at an increased speed, academia, government and the business sector should collaborate and work together to come up with the best plan to structure this scheme, that is designed to fulfil jobs in a centralised system. When creating the scheme, the government should talk to employers, individuals and research the growing and emerging industries (fintech, robotics, Artificial Intelligence) to see what skills are needed and where the gaps in resource are, to appropriately design training to fill these gaps.
The scheme aims to expand job, traineeship, and skills training opportunities to support workers in Britain affected by the economic impact of COVID-19. This idea can be a better way of getting the economy back on its feet faster and reducing the social and economic impact of job redundancy by utilising the resource pool of millions of people across the UK who are available and looking for jobs.
As the Prime Minister said in his speech on the anniversary of the first national lockdown “education is the biggest priority for the country.” The chance to learn and gain new skills could open doors to opportunities, for those who have been affected by job losses and economic hardship. The future depends on education and retraining a workforce that has the right skills to enable Britain to be a business hub and trading partner in a post-pandemic world.