A good plan for jobs?

Post author image. Nicola Inge
An image of Nicola Inge

Nicola Inge, Business in the Community’s Employment and Skills Director, on the government’s plan for getting the UK back to work during the recovery period. 

On the face of it, the broad-ranging suite of measures announced by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, earlier this month has something in there for everyone.   

Support for young people was prioritised through a new push on traineeships, an expansion of the existing youth offer, incentivised apprenticeships and the introduction of a new Kickstarter Scheme.   

For the rest, it was mostly about increasing capacity in the existing support systems. A doubling of work coaches, expansion of support through the Work and Health Programme, a boost for careers and skills, plus a new investment in the private sector to help those closest to the labour market move back into work as quickly as possible.  

If employers are serious about attracting a diverse workforce, they need to scrutinise their recruitment processes and remove barriers.

Nicola Inge, Business in the Community’s Employment & Skills Director

Stuck at the bottom of the pile 

For groups facing barriers to work, such as ex-offenders, homeless people and refugees, there’s a strong risk that, as the labour market is flooded with newly unemployed people and competition for jobs intensifies, they and other marginalised groups may find themselves once again at the bottom of the pile.   

If employers are serious about attracting a diverse workforce, they need to scrutinise their recruitment processes and remove barriers, such as jargon or the criminal records tick-box. They also need to reach out through partners to actively tap into a more diverse workforce. The voluntary sector and employability providers were noticeably absent from the Plan for Jobs announced on 8 July but will be critical to making sure that the most disadvantaged can benefit from the schemes ahead.  

The golden thread 

While skills were mentioned in several parts of the government’s plan, they were not given the prominence hoped for by some.  If these short-term interventions, such as traineeships and Kickstarter Jobs, are to have a long-term impact, then they need to build skills as well as experience. Essential skills such as teamwork, listening and problem solving need to be the golden thread that runs throughout all the interventions, improving outcomes for young people and smoothing transitions for everyone.    

These transferable, cognitive, interpersonal and self-management skills are in great demand from employers and will play a key role in ‘levelling up’ if we can make sure that opportunities to develop them don’t remain the preserve of the privileged1.  We need to build them consistently through education, welfare-to-work programmes and employment using a common language, as provided by the Skills Builder Universal Framework. That way, individuals, regardless of their age or background, can understand what they are and how to build them throughout their lives.  

Employers such as Boots, Tideway, KPMG and Heathrow are already doing this, using the Skills Builder Universal Framework as a measurable, consistent framework supporting education programmes, apprenticeships, recruitment and learning and development for existing employees.   

We want to see the government follow their lead in embedding essential skills into support for jobseekers at every level, ensuring that employers are able to access the skilled workforce they need and every individual has the best opportunity to succeed irrespective of background.