Six-point skills plan proposed to tackle COVID impact on London


A new report has outlined a six-point plan to tackle London’s unemployment and skills challenges.

With COVID-19 impact leaving the capital suffering from the highest unemployment rate in the country, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s ‘Recovering employment and skills in London’ report assesses measures that can be taken to upskill, retrain and support people back into work – fuelling the economy of both the capital and country.

Facing forecast unemployment of 9.4% by December 2021, 464,000 Londoners could be unemployed.  Worst-case scenario projections indicate unemployment could even rise to 11.8% in February 2022, leaving 580,000 Londoners out of work.

LCCI’s six-point plan considers how to address this challenge, including increased focus on support needed for mature workers, as the debate on reskilling and upskilling throughout the pandemic has often rightly focused on young people, but also needs to extend to older workers – particularly as those aged 50-65 are expected to see the highest relative increases in unemployment in London.  LCCI propose a dedicated scheme for adults is launched in London, similar to traineeships, to ensure mature workers are not left behind. The scheme would also support lifelong learning beyond the pandemic.

NOW READ: City & Guilds Foundation launches bursary to help Londoners get back into work

To recover employment and skills in London, LCCI propose:

– Gaps in data are addressed.

A systematic approach to gathering robust data on current skills gaps in London, as well as projections anticipating future changes, would better equip education and training to respond to the scale and speed of changes occurring.  

– SMEs are supported with identifying suitable solutions.

A centralised, collaborative advice hub should be developed to support smaller businesses in London with understanding available training options and what they entail, as well as identifying which best address their skills needs.

– Ensuring the Apprenticeships Levy and scheme better serve employers and the workforce.

The Government should look at widening the Apprenticeship Levy into a Skills Development Levy. This would give employers the flexibility to invest in the right opportunities for their employees while ensuring funding is targeted at supporting reskilling and retraining where is it most needed.

– Mature workers are supported.

A dedicated scheme for adults, similar to traineeships, should be developed to ensure mature workers are not left behind, and to support them with transferring valuable skills to fill existing and emerging gaps.  This scheme should support lifelong learning beyond the pandemic.

– Further financial support is made available for adapting and transferring skills.

While broadening the Apprenticeship Levy into a Skills Development Levy would go some way to addressing challenges, further financial support should be explored by the Government for supporting more people to adapt or transfer their skills in the meantime. This could include interest-free loans or grants, or a scheme similar to the super-deduction announced in the 2021 Budget to incentivise and support companies’ investment in skills development.

– Fostering career planning skills.

To support people in this uncertain climate, employers, training providers and educators should look to build career planning skills into training and development, empowering people with the tools and techniques to take ownership of their careers.

The report also tells that the ability of those who have been out of work for a sustained period to adapt to the scale of ways of working changes brought about during the pandemic, such as remote working, presents challenge – whilst the pressing need to progress towards net-zero and the acceleration of technological innovation mean further developments to skills needs are underway – and will continue to drive further change.  The increased emergence of ‘offshoring’ is also highlighted.

Richard Burge, Chief Executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “Throughout the pandemic, London has suffered some of the highest unemployment and furlough levels in the country.  As lockdown eases and with a scaling down of furlough, we hope, of course, for safe economic recovery, job retention and creation.  But it’s clear that in the short-term a significant number of people will be without work, and London starts the road to recovery with the highest unemployment rates in the country.

“Digital skills are essential in a hybrid economy.  We have the prospect of a recovery focussed on the opportunities presented by carbon reduction, and a continuation of automation and other technological advancements that have already been shaping the skills needs of businesses pre-pandemic.  It is vital that all those people who are out of work are properly supported in developing the skills that they need in order to access these new types of job.

“That is why London Chamber of Commerce and Industry has worked with its membership to produce this six-point plan about tackling the capital’s employment and skills challenge, focussing on key issues that need addressing, right across the age ranges.”

For the latest headlines from the City of London and beyond, follow City Matters on TwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.