Reform Scotland

Back on Track: Retraining in the Covid-19 Era

Government must do more to retrain COVID-hit workforce

The Scottish Government must throw its full weight behind a broad and deep retraining programme for workers who lose out due to the consequences of Covid-19, Reform Scotland, the independent think tank, says today.

Scotland is facing an unemployment crisis “on a scale not seen since the 1980s” – 736,500 people in Scotland have been furloughed. Job vacancies are falling and there has been a drop of up to 80% on this time last year in Aberdeen and a 67% drop in Glasgow.

In a new paper, Back on Track: Retraining in the Covid-19 Era, Reform Scotland argues that the Scottish Government must act now to prepare for the worst. Steps should include:

  • a major expansion of its programme of Individual Training Accounts, which currently covers less than 1% of the number of people furloughed.
  • a new partnership with the private sector to drive the retraining agenda – industry has the ability to simultaneously retrain the workforce, create jobs and expand the tax base in order to fund public services. Councils, the third sector and the unions should also be involved in planning and delivery.
  • ensuring the new Scottish National Investment Bank identifies investment opportunities that will create new jobs in growth sectors.
  • Government retraining programmes must adapt for the lockdown generation. While there are huge opportunities from embracing technology, there will be data, device and space barriers to some who need that help most.

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.”