LONDON – Boris Johnson called out the “painfully apparent” shortcomings in the UK labor market as he pledged a new program of training to help people forced out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Business isn’t happy, the economy is under-productive, and many working adults are stuck in jobs without much future,” Johnson said in a speech in Exeter, southwest England, on Tuesday (Sept 29).
The prime minister pledged to end the “bogus” distinction between vocational and academic training and overhaul apprenticeships. He also outlined a “lifetime skills guarantee” under which every student will be entitled to educational loans to fund four years of adult education.
The government is trying to soften the blow of a wave of unemployment expected in coming months as it scales back the unprecedented support it provided to help businesses weather the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 700,000 jobs have already been lost, and last week Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said more will go as he announced less generous programs to take over when his flagship furlough plan ends on Oct 31.
“As the Chancellor has said, we cannot, alas, save every job,” Johnson said. “What we can do is give people the skills to find and create new and better jobs.”
The reforms will be backed by 1.5 billion pounds in capital expenditure for further education college buildings, Johnson’s office said in a statement.
Some 2.5 billion pounds from the National Skills Fund will be used to get people working again after the pandemic, and to help train those in work to qualify for higher-skilled work, it said. “We have the talent; we have the potential: all we need to do is give people the chance,” Johnson said. “Yes, we face a once in a century pandemic, but now is the time to fix a problem that has plagued this country for decades.”