‘Super Saturday’ on 4th July heralded a new phase of Covid-19 economic recovery in the UK, as hairdressers, pubs and restaurants were able to open for the first time since lockdown began.

It was a milestone moment, but reaching the desired economic ‘bounce-back’ is going to be tough and unlikely to be quick. As some are returning to work for the first time in months, announcements of redundancies are multiplying from employers across all sectors.

According to the latest government figures, the UK unemployment rate between March to May 2020 was estimated to be 3.9%, with the total number of weekly hours worked 877.1 million, down a record 175.3 million hours on the previous year and down a record 175.1 million hours on the previous quarter. The claimant count, which includes people on Universal Credit or Jobseeker’s Allowance, more than doubled between March and May to 1.4 million. In April, just after lockdown began, GDP fell 20.4%, the largest monthly drop on record.

Young people are the hardest hit

In June 2020, 9.3 million jobs from 1.1 million employers were furloughed as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – a scheme which will end in October. According to the Resolution Foundation one-third of 18-24-year-old employees (excluding students) have lost jobs or been furloughed, compared to one-in-six prime-age adults. If younger people are not furloughed, they are more likely to be claiming Universal Credit. This all adds up to a bleak picture for younger people and puts them at greater risk of long-term unemployment, which can have a ‘scarring’ effect on their career.

Youth unemployment is bad for the individual, affecting their confidence and wellbeing, and for the economy - businesses need younger people to enter the workplace, to build their skills and experience. However, Covid-19 has changed consumer behaviour and turned traditional models of working on their head which is accelerating change.

We were already on the cusp of a fourth industrial revolution in the workplace before the pandemic due to automation and artificial intelligence, now businesses need to rebuild and adapt at a faster rate.

Equipping young people with the skills they need

Skills are the new currency and ensuring that organisations have access to the skills they need, when they need them, will be critical if we are to successfully revive post-Covid Britain. Prior to the pandemic, employers were facing skills shortages, the Department for Education’s last Employer Skills Survey in 2017 showed 226,000 skill-shortage vacancies.

Employers will require more skills linked to growth sectors, such as green energies. The government recognises this and announced a plan in June to invest £73.5 million into Britain’s automotive industry to help it develop green technologies.

However, digital skills are also in short supply. The Open University’s ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ report in 2019 found that 88% of organisations across Britain were lacking in digital skills, with many expecting this to increase in the next five years.

So how can we balance this skills shortage with the prospect of huge long-term youth unemployment?

The government has shown its intent to provide solutions with the announcement of its £2bn ‘kick-starter’ jobs plan. It will subsidise jobs for younger people and give them the opportunity to build their skills in the workplace and improve their chances of finding long-term employment.

Funding is being made available to provide six-month job placements, up to a maximum of £6,500 per person. The money will cover 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, with employers also able to top up the wage if they wish to.

At Capita we are committed to equipping young people with the skills they need in the workplace. Our Novus Programme trains recent graduates in areas such as project management and cyber security, and then deploys them on job assignments for up to two years with blue-chip clients across many sectors. We also partner with our corporate charity partners, TeachFirst and Young Enterprise, to encourage our people to volunteer their time to help young people with employability and entrepreneurial skills.

For employers we help organisations access key skills and assist millions of UK workers with skill development and job placement. Through our Vision2Learn offering, we provide effective e-learning programmes with further education colleges, training providers, and private and public sector organisations.

A welcome part of the Chancellor’s kickstart plan was the focus on providing more apprenticeship opportunities. At Capita, we support 900 apprenticeships around the UK and are committed to reaching 1,400 next year. Our apprenticeships range from Level 3 to Level 7 and give young people the chance to hone their skills and get valuable experience in the workplace.

We also support employers to deliver large-scale apprenticeship programmes. We map business goals with learner needs and design learning journeys that create better outcomes for individuals and deliver sustainable skills solutions for employers.

Clearly, it will take a number of initiatives to help young people get back into employment. The government’s kickstart scheme is a welcome boost, but long-term opportunities will require businesses to plan strategically for the skills they need to succeed in the future and provide opportunities and skills-based training. We are committed to playing our part in helping more young people into work and giving them the skills they need to succeed.

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