In a set of proposals, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) said government must begin to prioritise job opportunities and upskill requirements over a generic skills or a work programme, and that different government departments must work together rather than in siloes.
Mark Dawe, chief executive at AELP, said: “We don’t think that there is time for new employment and skills programmes to be devised when we are plunging into what could be the worst recession in living memory.
“But a sophisticated new approach is needed to maximise the economic impact from existing programmes and get as many unemployed people back into work as quickly as possible.
“This means central government departments such as BEIS, DfE and DWP working together closely with devolved authorities and education and employment providers in a way that avoids a hit and miss approach and which enables targeted support to reach priority sectors and individuals who need support.
“Cooperation between Whitehall departments during previous downturns has a chequered history and we can’t afford to repeat mistakes in these unprecedented circumstances.”
The AELP said government will need a live dataset to identify which opportunities are available where and when, drawing on sector-driven data and opportunities from sources such as Jobcentre Plus.
It outlined priority groups to help during the recovery process including those who were long-term unemployed before the crisis, low-skilled recently unemployed individuals, high-skilled workers displaced by the crisis, and 16-to-24-year-olds entering the workforce for the first time.
To help these individuals find employment, the AELP laid out a framework covering several areas: compiling a skills matrix depending on sector, designing a process of identifying customised support for each individual and working out methods of employment and skills delivery and assessment.
Shereen Daniels, managing director at HR Rewired, said new jobs can only be created by a cross-section of industry and commerce. “I don’t believe a government initiative on its own is enough to drive change,” she said.
Distance learning has been popular among UK workers during lockdown and Daniels argued upskilling should be supported by businesses as they seek recovery.
She said: “Upskilling should be a priority for all businesses and yet many have not updated their approach to how they support the continuous learning of their employees. We need to relook at the industries and professions where we think we’ll see the fastest job growth and prioritise the skills to fulfil that demand.”
Daniels also said this provides an opportunity to create a more equal workplace.
She said: “We should look at how we best can ensure equitable and inclusive opportunities to equip our workforce with the skills they need to thrive in the future, so no one is left behind.
“This is a massive opportunity for forward-thinking progressive HR leaders as they are uniquely placed to drive this change within their organisations.”
AELP has said that funding will be necessary for the initial assessment, required delivery and final accreditation.
Its proposed framework has been submitted to the government as a starting point for discussion.
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