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To avoid the mistakes of past recessions, government should focus on skills to get the most at risk 764,000 people back into secure work

25 June 2020

In a recession, young people and disadvantaged adults are less likely to find work, and more likely to lose their jobs, scarring them economically for the rest of their lives. We can avoid that happening this time, if we focus on getting people trained and ready for when the labour market begins to grow again. Rapidly furloughing nine million workers was a bold but necessary move from the government, with an estimated cost of £56 billion. Government must now focus on minimising the post-furlough shock, as many fear for their jobs and their future employment prospects. The Association of Colleges is warning of: Increased demand for college places as high unemployment crowds young people out of the labour market Large numbers of young people needing support to catch up as a result of lost learning in lockdown Reductions in apprenticeship places, a large number of apprentice redundancies and a shortage of new places for apprentices Large numbers of adults requiring training to help them move from struggling sectors into those that recover more quickly, or even grow In ‘Rebuild: a skills led recovery plan’ published today, AoC is calling on government for another bold and necessary course of action to reduce the post post-furlough shock, minimise the risk of economic scarring, and prepare the country for the rebuild by: Guaranteeing a high quality, education or training place for every 16 to 18 year old, funded to meet their needs and the learning lost Offering a suite of work focussed training programmes, including expanded traineeships and apprenticeships designed to get young people into jobs as soon as they become available. This should include a comprehensive bursary system and incentives for employers Providing support for adults who lose their jobs to train or retrain flexibly up to higher level technical / professional level, aimed at getting them back into the workforce as quickly as possible, with additional training to manage their transition once back in work. This package would cost the Treasury £3.6 billion and deliver incentives to businesses and a flexible offer for students. Colleges are ready to deliver in every community across the country to ensure that nobody is left behind, and that we build back better through one of the best prepared future-ready work forces. Read the full report and recommendations here: David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges said: “COVID19 and its impact on the economy is like nothing we’ve seen before, and our response has to match that. We know most that it is young people and the disadvantaged who suffer most in recessions and that this can stay with them throughout their working lives. Every community in the UK has a thriving college that works with hundreds of local employers to develop their workforce and anticipate their future needs. That makes colleges perfectly placed to offer education and training in what business needs and to ensure a strong pipeline of nurses and care workers, construction workers, engineers, designers and so much more. Government was bold with its furlough scheme, we are asking for the same in education and training. Colleges are ready to create a flexible, high quality and properly funded training and education offer, which would make sure we have the best prepared young people and adults in the world, ready to rebuild.” Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee said: "I am passionate about ensuring that every young person gets the chance to climb the ladder of opportunity. Colleges like Harlow College offers some incredible opportunities to learn and upskill and I want to see more young people take advantage of them. But the coronavirus has, understandably, left many feeling uncertain about their futures. That's why, I strongly welcome the Association of College's new report, calling for a guaranteed education or training place for every 16- to 18-year-old, including high-quality apprenticeships designed to get young people into the jobs they need to succeed." Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London said: “I welcome the Association of Colleges’ call for a skills-led recovery. The wide-ranging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic mean we have to make sure the skills and employment system is able to give Londoners the education, retraining and support they need as the city starts to recover. I will continue to lobby Government for more funding for adult education and better coordination of employment and skills provision across the capital.” Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region said: “In a different era with similarly severe economic challenges I began a bricklaying apprenticeship which gave me the skills to find employment and start a business. This timely report from the Association of Colleges comes when the threat of a new post-Covid downturn risks the future of so many promising young people who desperately need support to gain the skills to find their place in the workforce. “Colleges will need to be at the heart of our recovery efforts as we build back better, and this report sets out a number of important recommendations for Government to consider. Government must act on the recommendations of the report, guaranteeing a high quality, education or training place for every 16 to 18 year old, funded to meet their needs and the learning lost in the pandemic. There is a clear need to cohere and communicate these responses locally to make it simple for businesses and learners to find the support that they need.” West of England, Mayor Tim Bowles said: “Skills need to be at the forefront of our economic recovery and renewal following the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether they help school leavers into their first job, help someone that’s been made redundant back into the workplace, or help an entrepreneur with an idea strike out on their own. In the West of England, the further education sector has an important role in my Economic Recovery Taskforce and I will continue to work with our excellent colleges to make sure our residents of all ages have the skills they need to play a full part in that recovery. “The Association of Colleges make an important contribution to these ongoing discussions. Devolution offers us all the opportunity to revolutionise how we deliver training and skills, allowing for devolved funding to be targeted to support the specific needs of a regional economy, delivering a much higher return on the investment, and making sure that residents have the skills they need for the jobs created by our region’s businesses.” Marion Plant, board director at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and chair of its Productivity and Skills Business Group, said: “Coventry and Warwickshire LEP welcomes this important set of proposals from AoC. The impact of Covid-19 is being felt in every sector and it is vital that skills play a leading role in re-setting the economy. There is expected to be a disproportionate impact on young people which makes it even more important that extra funding is given to the Further Education sector to ensure we can provide the courses which are needed. “College leavers, employees who have been furloughed and apprentices of all ages are seeking advice and we need to make sure the courses we are offering meet the needs of businesses post-Covid particularly in digital learning.” Michele Farmer, Regional Director at The Prince’s Trust in Central England said: “Now more than ever it is vital that we invest in young people and ensure that they are technically and emotionally equipped to play their part in kick starting the economy. “It imperative that we at The Prince’s Trust join forces with other charities, support agencies and government, both local and national, to rebuild young people’s confidence, provide them with the skills they need to start new careers or their own businesses and the resources they need to play their part in rebuilding the economy.”