A series of practical proposals to support North East businesses to overcome economic difficulties from the impact of Coronavirus have been released today, 24 August 2020.
In the report, prepared by North East England Chamber of Commerce, the findings set out how to support businesses severely impacted by social distancing, reducing redundancies once the Job Retention scheme ends and job creation.
Based on analysis of regional statistics the proposals include providing specific work coaches for unemployed people and free access to flexible skills courses in sectors where there are vacancies, such as engineering. These roles could support the Chancellor’s proposed £8.8 billion of new infrastructure and decarbonisation projects.Employers in the region could also be incentivised to employ workers who are unemployed as opposed to those coming directly from other roles.
Niamh Corcoran, Chamber policy adviser said: “This report, COVID-19 -North East: What is needed for a strong recovery?, sets out clear set of solutions to tackle some of the gaps we have identified in the North East labour market.We must ensure everyone in the region has the opportunity to contribute to our economy and develop their potential if we are to have our best chance of recovery.”
David Ridley, a North East-based corporate lawyer who co-authored the report said: "The North East went into the pandemic with the highest unemployment rate of any region in the UK. This report outlines the reasons why the North East requires targeted economic support and proposes various measures to protect jobs, create high quality employment opportunities and upskill our workforce in order for the local economy and business community to emerge from this downturn with renewed strength and resilience."
Other proposals in the paper include targeted funding for those businesses bearing the expensive cost of social distancing with slim profit margins. It also recommends the Government funds products to help with this rather than companies having to spend time and resources securing these essential items themselves.
With the closing of the Job Retention Scheme the report suggests extending it for sectors hardest hit such as events and entertainment. This would allow these businesses more time to recover and would protect jobs whilst social distancing remains in place. With such high numbers of young, low paid and lower qualified workers concentrated in this sector, protecting these jobs is key to ensuring a fair economic recovery. The extension could also be applied to workers who are unable to re-enter the workplace safely due to being clinically vulnerable or have caring responsibilities.
The Chamber report recommends that job creation and re-training are not focused exclusively in higher-skilled sectors, which are inaccessible for a large proportion of those at risk of unemployment. This is particularly important for the North East, due to its higher than average proportion of the workforce holding lower level qualifications.