Throughout November, the CIPD took a number of opportunities – through engagement with the media and directly with policy makers – to call on the UK Government to invest an additional £1 billion in the development of sector-based skills and employability training, to support economic recovery. By equipping people for changing job opportunities and giving businesses the skills they need to survive and grow, the CIPD argues that this investment will be crucial in tackling the UK’s poor workplace productivity performance. 

The professional body also lent its weight to several awareness-raising campaigns aligned to its purpose of championing better work and working lives, including Living Wage Week and Anti Bullying Week.

Longer-term thinking needed to protect employment 

The month began with the welcome news that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) would be extended, to help employers in sectors directly impacted by the pandemic to save jobs. But in its response, which was picked up by Reuters and the Mail Online, the CIPD urged policy makers to look further ahead, working with employers to help them plan forwards and avoid redundancies triggered by uncertainty. It also urged government to provide more support for those people who do lose their jobs – with funding for training, coaching and support to find alternative work.

The CIPD’s latest Labour Market Outlook survey, which featured in the Guardian and a number of HR titles including HR Magazine and Personnel Today, also highlighted the limitations of the furlough scheme. The survey of more than 1,000 employers found that recruitment intentions still lag behind pre-pandemic levels and redundancy intentions remain high (despite a slight reduction since the previous quarter). It prompted the CIPD to reiterate its call to expand training and employability support, as well as to reform the apprenticeship levy.

The CIPD warned that more employers might look to reassess staffing levels early in the new year, as they plan for what their workforce will look like in the medium to long term. It said that a more flexible training levy, in place of the existing apprenticeship levy, would encourage employers to invest in training for workers being redeployed, working reduced hours or being made redundant. It also called for a significant increase in bespoke, sector-based training and further investment in the National Retraining Scheme, to equip workers who do lose their jobs with the skills they need to find work in other sectors. 

UK skills shortages could be looming

Looking even further ahead, the CIPD has warned that when the economy recovers, employers in the UK may struggle to fill some vacancies due to a dramatic decline in EU workers.  It pointed to a mismatch between the skills of those looking for jobs and those that firms require, and said that an urgent and substantial injection of skills investment is required to help enable more UK jobseekers fill some of the vacancies that the reduction in supply will create.  

Unfortunately, the Chancellor’s Spending Review, announced as the month drew to a close, did not live up to the CIPD’s expectations on skills.  Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy for the CIPD, said: ‘We welcome extra funding for the Restart programme to address spiralling unemployment. But it’s crucial that support for the long-term unemployed provides access to training for both the technical and transferable skills that will enable people to easily move across roles and sectors.'

People profession key to delivering on the UK’s vision for skills 

In October, the CIPD met with the Skills Minister, Gillian Keegan, to discuss the critical role of the people profession in delivering the Governments vision of technical education, and the vital work we have done as part of the Essential Skills Taskforce to agree a universal framework of essential skills for education, work and life. The meeting was an opportunity to raise concerns about worsening youth labour market conditions, and demonstrate how CIPD members are stepping up to help via the Steps Ahead Mentoring programme.

The Steps Ahead Mentoring programme aims to help young people find work by matching them with a CIPD member, who will act as a mentor. Mentors provide practical advice on CVs, applications, interviews and job searching, as well as helping young people improve their confidence, build professional networks, and identify and establish career goals. 

Launched initially because of high youth unemployment in the last recession, thousands of CIPD members have given up their time to provide mentoring support to young jobseekers, as well as parent returners, helping hundreds of young people fulfil their potential and find work.

The CIPD has also supported government measures to help young people access work placements through the new Kickstart scheme.  To ensure these placements build the skills employers need, the CIPD has produced some joint guidance with the Skills Builder Partnership and Business in the Community, which sets out how to develop essential skills in a structured way during their Kickstart placement.

Championing better work and working lives

Throughout the course of the month, the CIPD also supported a number of awareness-raising campaigns to promote health and wellbeing at work, and help ensure that work is a force for good. These included Living Wage WeekTalk Money WeekStress Awareness WeekAlcohol Awareness Week and Anti Bullying Week.

To mark Anti Bullying Week, the CIPD shared guidance on managing conflict at work with thousands of social media followers. As the awareness week drew to a close, a report into allegations of bullying within the UK’s Home Office was released and concluded that Home Secretary Priti Patel broke the ministerial code of conduct. In response, we shared the CIPD’s guidance and statistics on the issue with the media, alongside comment from Senior Policy Adviser Rachel Suff. This was featured on ITV Online and in the Metro.

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Championing better work and working lives

About the CIPD

At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.