A group of London businesses have called on Gavin Williamson to tackle London’s growing skills shortage, warning that the capital’s recovery from the pandemic was on the line.
In a letter to the education secretary, coordinated by London First and seen by City A.M., the businesses call for a swathe of new policies to be introduced.
These include a new career service for Londoners as well as an adult retraining scheme, as well as a London apprenticeship fund.
The letter, which was signed by leaders across the hospitality, retail, and leisure sectors, says that “bold and ambitious thinking is needed to ensure that London can continue to be the nation’s driver of economic growth”.
It warned that London’s unemployment rate could hit 9.4 per cent by the end of the year, equating to nearly half a million unemployed Londoners.
At the moment the rate stands at 7 per cent, which is the highest in the country.
“Without intervention, the chances of a prompt recovery for the capital and the whole UK, are slim. For example, in hospitality, the serious recruitment challenge and a lack of trained professionals has led some venues to cut back services and reduce opening hours.
“Building a successful, global Britain requires a vibrant, growing London, and this is only possible if the skills and recruitment challenges are faced head on, with the same energy and intensity that has defined the successful rollout of the vaccine”, it went on.
Along with the above recommendations, it also called for a better short-term seasonal visa system to alleviate the labour shortages currently crippling some sectors.
And it added that ministers should lay out plans to reform the apprenticeship system, including greater flexibility in the way the levy spend can be used.
A Department for Education (DoE) spokesperson said: “We have put reforming skills at the heart of our plans to recover from the pandemic. We are already offering around 400 qualifications through our Free Course for Jobs initiative in areas such as engineering, social care and digital.”
The spokesperson said the government was providing skills bootcamps to help fast-track people to an interview with local employers.
The DoE also said its “Lifelong Loan Entitlement” levy, which provides people with four years of post-18 education that they can use over their lifetime to build skills, was “vital for driving economic recovery” and “supports employers of all sizes to invest in high-quality apprenticeship training.”
In 2020-21, funding available for investment in apprenticeships in England will remain around £2.5 billion, the DoE spokesperson added.