UK government to support job training to tackle COVID-19 unemployment

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak said last week unemployment 'is already rising and will continue to rise.' Photo: PA
UK chancellor Rishi Sunak said last week unemployment ‘is already rising and will continue to rise.’ Photo: PA

The UK government will launch new training options in an effort to boost productivity and tackle unemployment to help the country recover from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The support will include funding to allow adults without qualifications to take certain educational courses for free, as well as flexible loans allowing people to space out their studies and transfer credits between institutions.

The government hopes that people learning new skills will help tackle the unemployment rate, which stands at 4.1%, according to the Office for National Statistics. Unemployment levels are expected to increase as the government’s job retention furlough scheme comes to an end in October, to be replaced by a scaled-back job support programme.

Last week, the UK chancellor Rishi Sunak admitted unemployment will continue to rise, even as he unveiled a package of new crisis measures designed to save firms and jobs. The finance minister set out a string of new policies in his “Winter Economy Plan,” which firms cautiously welcomed but warned did not go far enough to prevent lay-offs.

The scheme is designed to prevent redundancies, by topping-up the wages of workers who work and are paid for at least a third of their typical hours. The Treasury said employees working a third of their usual hours would receive 77% of their normal hours.

READ MORE: UK government unveils ‘Winter Economy Plan’ to protect jobs and firms

“Of course unemployment is already rising and will continue to rise. That’s a complete tragedy,” said Sunak.

Watch: What is the government’s new job support programme?

Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to say on Tuesday: “We cannot, alas, save every job. What we can do is give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs,” according to excerpts sent by his office.

“We’re transforming the foundations of the skills system so that everyone has the chance to train and retrain,” he will say.

The government will also provide more funding for apprenticeships at small and medium-sized firms (SMEs), and will extend a pilot programme known as “digital skill boot camps” to new locations.

Levels of vocational training have been falling over the past twenty years, the government said, with only 10% of adults in Britain holding a higher technical qualification as their highest qualification, compared with 20% in Germany and 34% in Canada.

UK businesses have complained of a shortage of skills in the workforce affecting the country’s productivity.

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