Professor Martin Jones, Deputy Vice Chancellor at Staffordshire University, explains why a job rotation scheme could be the next step in ‘levelling-up’ the economy
Love it or loathe it, arguing that the Government’s furlough scheme hasn’t been a success is very difficult. Many see it as one of the only things the Government has got right throughout the crisis, offering much needed financial support to enable businesses to stay afloat when our economic climate has looked very bleak.
There is no doubt that when Chancellor Rishi Sunak held the briefing back in March 2020 to announce the furlough scheme there was a collective and national thank you. Of course, there have been winners and losers, but we would have been in a worse state both socially and economically had it not been offered.
Furlough and the £20 universal credit top-up have been a lifeline
Furlough and the £20 universal credit top-up have been a lifeline to many throughout the pandemic; those in low paid roles, part-time workers, and young people (particularly apprentices or those in vocational roles). And whilst the furlough scheme has been extended several times, we know it can’t go on forever, so when all the job retention schemes come to an end this Autumn we need to ask ourselves what the ramifications will be and what do we need to do to alleviate the impact.
There will be many who will not have jobs to go back to, businesses that cannot afford to operate and people who will feel lost and worried about what the future holds for them.
So, what about those who are struggling or people who need support to kick start their career? How can the government effectively close these schemes and continue to support people from low-income backgrounds while upskilling the workforce and strengthening the economy?
what about those who are struggling or people who need support to kick start their career?
There is an alternative – the job rotation scheme – that is little known in this country but tried and tested by others. The UK has unsuccessfully attempted to introduce it in the past. This time, however, the pandemic has highlighted the need for it, and it has more backing this time around – meaning that it might just work.
In our recent report The Post Covid-19 Crisis and its Impact on Poverty and Destitution in Stoke-on-Trent we suggest that the answer lies in this scheme – something the Scandinavians have been implementing successfully.
Developing a Job and Skills Guarantee Scheme for claimants and workers modelled around the Scandinavian Job Rotation (JR) initiative would be a logical next step for our Government to implement. JR is an integrated and inclusive labour market policy for increasing the number of jobs available.
It’s a form of job matching and a short-term job guarantee – preparing people for the labour market by guaranteeing placements for unemployed individuals which also provides them with on the job training and reskilling.
JR could be implemented through the packaging of existing initiatives such as the Apprenticeship and the Government’s Kickstart Scheme as well as initiatives taking place at a local level involving councils and Local Enterprise Partnerships.
Building up this case, which is increasingly relevant to the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda and concerns with ‘community renewal’, has been supported by The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA).
With fears of very high unemployment in the UK following the COVID-19 pandemic, there are calls for a back-to-work strategy involving a Job Guarantee for young people and the long-term unemployed. Job Rotation could play a crucial role in such a strategy, linking a range of tried and tested employability support (including pre-employment training and coaching), lifelong learning and in-work support.
Job Rotation could play a crucial role in such a strategy
With a job rotation scheme in place, the Government could withdraw the furlough scheme, get those that can work back into employment and provide a much-needed lifeline to those who need the extra support.
In the longer term, this will also reduce digital exclusion, work towards closing the digital skills gap and support to the levelling-up agenda. If we are going to bounce back from the pandemic, we need to start providing tangible opportunities to help people get back to work and reskill.