What if no one was left behind?

Post author image. Nicola Inge
As 2021 unfolds Business in the Community is calling on businesses to support the most disadvantaged as we build back responsibly from COVID-19.

BITC’s Director Employment and Skills, Nicola Inge, sets how businesses can play their part.

Nicola Inge looks at the camera
Nicola Inge

The past year has been one of extraordinary challenges. We have seen record levels of redundancies1 as industries such as hospitality, retail and culture have been brought to their knees, removing those early career opportunities that are so important for young people.
We have redefined our understanding of keyworkers, clapping to show our appreciation whilst dealing with the uncomfortable knowledge that pay does not always reward true value to society.
Existing divides in society have been exposed and accentuated, as unemployment and financial hardship have fallen disproportionately on young people2, older workers3, women4 and black, Asian and ethnic minority people5. For young people in education the disruption of the past year will carry a long tail as those without access to the devices, data and home environments to keep up during long spells of home-schooling risk falling further behind.
And we rounded off the year with Brexit, adding to the concerns of executive boards across the nation that are already grappling with an economic emergency.

Existing divides in society have been exposed and accentuated, as unemployment and financial hardship have fallen disproportionately on young people, older workers, women and black, Asian and ethnic minority people .

A year of crisis and opportunity
As we look to the year ahead with hope for better things to come, there is no escaping the fact that it will continue to be difficult for many. The culmination of the furlough scheme in April is anticipated to lead to a peak in unemployment at 2.6 million in June6. Young people leaving education in 2021 after a disrupted year will enter an incredibly tough labour market, and all the more so for disadvantaged young people with fewer networks.

Now is the time for businesses to embrace the unique and powerful role they can play to ensure that the recovery period leaves no one behind. At Business in the Community (BITC), we are asking our members to take action in three important ways to tackle inequality in education and employment and help the UK build back responsibly.   

  1. Target and engage disadvantaged pupils and jobseekers with your work placement programmes, including any Kickstart placements you may be providing. 
  2. Develop essential skills by adopting the Skills Builder Universal Framework in your education, employability, recruitment, and employee development activity, making it easier for people to move into and between jobs and industries.     
  3. Make your jobs and apprenticeships more accessible when recruiting, actively removing barriers such as educational qualifications, the criminal records tick-box, location, and fixed working patterns when they are not truly essential for the role, and which deter disadvantaged and diverse groups from applying.  

Through our campaigns, advice, programmes and convening power we are already supporting our members to take action against these priority areas;

  • Through our virtual job club, volunteers from member companies including Keir and the Cooperative Bank are supporting jobseekers with multiple barriers to work to develop their skills, confidence and employability. 
  • As part of our campaign for greater recognition and development of essential skills, Boots UK is supporting young people to better access apprenticeships by using the Skills Builder Universal Framework in pre-application support packs for young people and parents.
  • We helped over 150 employers remove the criminal records tick-box from their job application forms to create fairer opportunities for people with convictions through our Ban the Box campaign.

Build Back Responsibly

As we look to the months ahead, we will be challenging our members to be bigger, bolder and faster in delivering the changes that are needed to ensure that no one is left behind.

To get started take a look at our events.

Throughout March we will be bringing our regional networks together to focus on responding to local needs through collective action.  

If your business shares our vision of a UK where everyone, regardless of background or experience, has access to the quality education and employment they need to thrive, join us to turn this into reality.  

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1 ONS (2020), Labour Market Overview, UK: December 2020 Labour market overview, UK – Office for National Statistics

2 Resolution Foundation: Class of 2020 Education leavers in the current crisis

3 Centre for Ageing Better: A mid-life employment crisis: how COVID-19 will affect the job prospects of older workers

4 Mckinsey and Company: COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects

5 The Guardian: Black, Asian and minority-ethnic UK workers hit worst by Covid job cuts

6 BBC News (2020) Unemployment rate: How many people are out of work?