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Invest in retraining to protect workers, government told

 

Reform Scotland is calling for a major upscale of current programmes

The Scottish Government must invest in a “broad and deep” retraining programme for workers impacted by Covid-19, according to an independent think tank.

Reform says Scotland is facing an unemployment crisis on a scale not seen since the 1980s, with more than 730,000 staff furloughed and some parts of the country facing a decline of up to 80% in new vacancies.

In a new report, the think tank says ministers must “prepare for the worst” and act now to protect as many workers as possible through a major retraining programme.

The paper, Back on Track: Retraining in the Covid-19 Era, calls for the expansion of the government’s current Individual Training Accounts programme, which currently covers less than 1% of those workers who have been furloughed.

Reform also wants to see a new partnership forged with the private sector to drive the retaining agenda, create jobs and expand the tax base to better fund public services. It also recommends that councils, the third sector and unions should also be involved in planning and delivery of new programmes, and that the new Scottish National Investment Bank invests in opportunities that will create new jobs in growth sectors.

Finally, the think tank says retraining programmes must take into account the “lockdown generation” by removing any barriers that could bar some workers from accessing them.

Chris Deerin, director of Reform Scotland, said: “The Covid-19 crisis is an unprecedented event in our lifetimes, and it requires an unprecedented response. Just as the government and the nation mobilised to bolster the NHS during the early stages of the virus, we now need to mobilise to help the economy recover.

“We face a jobs, training and growth crisis. The government has to lead us out of it, but it cannot and should not do it alone. Due to the technological revolution the shape of the economy was changing anyway, so these difficult times also offer an opportunity to match the workforce to future opportunities in growth sectors.

“The Advisory Group on Economic Recovery argued for a stronger relationship between business and government, and they were correct. It is in industry where people will be trained, jobs created, and tax revenues will be generated, which will see us through the perilous situation in which we find ourselves.”

 

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