Employment minister says ‘structural challenges’ in labour market must be fixed

A pivotal part of the government’s myriad employment schemes is to fix the “structural challenges” in the labour market, employment minister Miriam (Mims) Davies told Recruiter.

These were problems “around care, around green recovery, around agriculture, around the construction and digital sphere”, she explained. As a constituency MP, she said “people have been really discerning about the type of recovery and the way they want to live and work going forward”. 

“They really want to have a green recovery, and they’re going to want companies to reflect that. When the jobs market comes back I think people are going to choose to work in really environmentally positive places as well.”

To help get more than 600,000 people who have lost their jobs as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic back into work, Davies said the number of work coaches will double to 27,000 by next March. She went on to say the work coaching was going to have to be really agile, “and that’s why we’ve got a place-based approach around our recovery in all 630 or so job centres across the country … so that we’ve got the right places for people to come in, get that support when their confidence might be low to recognise what their skills are and what they can maybe bring to a new sector”.

Davies said work coaches could offer jobseekers help from the flexible support fund, a scheme previously offered at the discretion of JCP advisers, to help people claiming unemployment benefits to find a job.

Davies said this was just one scheme among the government’s employment schemes in its ‘A Plan for Jobs 2020’, including the Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) scheme, where work coaches can offer specialist advice on how people can move into growing sectors; the Kickstart programme, which is targeted at 16-24-year-olds; and around 100 Youth Hubs linked to DWP Job Centres, which aim to provide employability and skills advice to young people, who will have instant access to specialist advisory teams.

“We’ve got Reed, Adecco, Remploy helping us,” Davies added. “We’ve got a mixture of different recruiters helping us there as well; we're delighted to see them coming and helping us pull together.”

When asked how the government can support those hit by regulations surrounding coronavirus restrictions, Davies said: “We’re going to need to win people’s hearts and minds here. Your heart might still be in running a gym but actually it’s just impossible at the moment – your head and everything else needs to pay the bills. 

“And actually there are going to be some roles and opportunities that you could do in the short term or maybe perhaps you’re keen to look at different sectors… so that’s where our good work coaching and recruitment support really comes into play. 

It’s not about taking the skills and abilities that you’ve already got and dismissing them; it’s absolutely knowing what you’ve got that you could bring elsewhere – maybe in temporary ways – to help make ends meet until your sector, or what you really love, comes back.”

It was key, she explained, to keep people as close to the labour market as possible. “We need to make sure that, alongside this, we try and fix those structural problems in our labour market as well. 

“You can get some additional training and support … which may be for the short term, maybe for long term, but above all will keep you in that labour market.”

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