The West of England Recovery Taskforce has backed plans for integrated support for businesses and employees at risk of redundancy due to Covid-19.
The support is coordinated through the new Redundancy Response Group that is led by the West of England Combined Authority and brings together government departments, employers, unions, local councils and education and training providers.
Through the West of England Growth Hub (www.wearegrowth.co.uk) businesses can access free information and guidance on managing workforce pressures to avoid or minimise redundancies. Advice is also provided to support employees through the redundancy process and help people to secure alternative employment or training.
Businesses of any size in the West of England can access the support that includes workforce planning, HR advice and guidance, employability support, training and skills development and coaching.
The West of England Taskforce, led by Regional Mayor, Tim Bowles, comprises of senior figures from industry, education and local government, working together on plans for the region’s recovery. It welcomed the support for businesses and employees that is available now and the plans for a new online platform to make access to services even easier.
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “I want our residents to keep their jobs, find new opportunities and start fulfilling new careers in the jobs of the future. Our economic recovery and renewal depends on keeping our talent here in the region and that’s my focus as we come out of the unprecedented situation that Covid-19 has put us in.
“I know this is an incredibly challenging time for our region’s businesses and their employees which is why I want to make sure firms large and small, have the tailored advice they need, particularly at the most difficult times. That’s exactly what this multi-agency rapid reaction team will be able to provide.
“Whether the support sits alongside the in-house capabilities that large companies like Airbus are able to provide or is a lifeline to a small business that is struggling, I want businesses and employees in the West of England to know that we want to keep them here and this help is our way of doing that.”
The taskforce also welcomed the Government’s recent announcement of a £2bn ‘kickstart’ scheme to create more jobs for young people, £1.6bn for employment support and a £3bn green investment plan to cut carbon emissions. Members emphasised WECA’s leading role in ensuring that this funding it is used as effectively as possible in the West of England, aligning it with current activity.
Other priority areas agreed by the taskforce included:
- To create a new green skills development package which will train and retrain people in this growth area
- A regional approach to building digital skills, drawing on the collective strengths of further education colleges, universities and training providers, using innovative approaches for rapid reskilling
- More support for apprenticeships through WECA’s Workforce for the Future, which will work with small and medium-sized enterprises to help them develop their workforce and maximise the benefits of new government incentives
- Additional support to encourage young people to start-up businesses; tapping into our extensive regional networks and support organisations
Richard Bonner, Arcadis, said: “There are specific skills that we need to identify for green jobs and associated training, but we also need to consider how we stimulate the demand – maximising the regional value from government’s £3bn by boosting local supply chains and job creation.”
On targeting support at the right people, Sammy Payne, Co-founder, Open Bionics commented: “The Kickstart scheme is a fantastic opportunity for young people and SMEs in the region who have been impacted by the Coronavirus disruption. It is imperative that the economic disruption to businesses, training, and education, doesn’t isolate new talent ready to enter the workforce. Young people need opportunities and this will provide an opportunity for them to get a start at organisations whilst companies in the region recover.”
The taskforce reports to the West of England Combined Authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership. Its work covers Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire areas.
The work of the taskforce covers three areas:
- backing skills and training – helping residents keep their jobs, or find training or new job opportunities;
- supporting business – keeping anchor employers here, helping entrepreneurs and innovators strike out on their own and develop new ideas, and selling the West of England to the world, to attract more jobs, businesses and talent.
- improving connections – supporting transport operators to get back on their feet – making sure we’ve got the sustainable transport corridors we need – and boosting digital infrastructure.