Tuesday 9 June 2020 6:00 am

Coronavirus: New fund launched to create apprenticeships in London

A new fund has been launched by City Hall and a leading London think tank to provide retraining opportunities to London businesses affected by coronavirus.

The London Progression Collaboration – run by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Greater London Authority – launched the fund today, with £500,000 already pledged by companies such as the BBC, Amazon, Pearson and Avison Young.

The Reskilling for the Recovery Fund will see money distributed to small businesses in the capital to pay for apprenticeship training for new and existing staff.

Businesses in industries worst affected by the coronavirus crisis – hospitality, retail and construction – will be prioritised.

The new fund comes as Boris Johnson announced last week that every young person in the UK will have access to an apprenticeship in the wake of the Covid-19 economic crash.

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The Prime Minister said high levels of unemployment, as a result of the crisis, were “inevitable” and that his government would be “activist and interventionist” in dealing with job losses.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said he “applauded” the new Reskilling for the Recovery Fund.

“Apprenticeships are a brilliant way to get into a wide range of rewarding and valuable careers and provide the high-quality skills employers need and that will support our economic recovery,” he said.

Amazon UK manager Doug Gurr added: “We want to back the wider small business community through this apprenticeship levy transfer fund, ensuring businesses are able to access new talent and give people the opportunities to succeed in the digital age, regardless of their background.”

The UK’s official unemployment rate is expected to rise substantially when new figures are released, after a 70 per cent increase in Universal Credit claims in April.

More job losses will likely follow when the government’s furlough scheme is lifted, with many companies using the programme tipped to not re-open.

The Times reported last week that chancellor Rishi Sunak had begun to develop a jobs programme to deal with the fallout, which may include plans to retrain people for green jobs.

During the last recession, Gordon Brown set up the Future Jobs Fund  in an attempt to get young people back to work after the 2008 financial crash.

The £1.3bn fund created 200,000 jobs that were partly subsidised by the government, with the programme emphasising skills and training.

Lord Alastair Darling, who was chancellor under Brown, addressed Westminster’s Treasury Select Committee last week and emphasised the need for a programme similar to the Future Jobs Fund.

“If we can preserve jobs and can preserve, if you like, the economic fabric of our country then we should do everything we possibly can,” he said.

“If that’s not possible, let’s look at a range of possibilities that critically can get people back into work.”