Public and private sector leaders across Kent and Medway have united to support those looking for employment and those whose jobs may be lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kent and Medway Employment Task Force, chaired by Kent County Council Leader Roger Gough, brings together businesses, local government, schools, colleges, universities, the voluntary sector, careers service providers, the Department for Work and Pensions and two of the county’s MPs.
Recognizing the dramatic effect of Covid on sectors such as retail and hospitality in particular – and with the employment market likely to be challenging for some time – the Task Force is backing a range of measures introduced by Government to open up new job opportunities and to support jobseekers.
The Task Force’s Employment Plan sets out four key areas of action:
- Supporting young people into work, prioritizing the Government’s new Kickstart scheme
- Supporting the existing workforce, including careers guidance and support shaped to the needs of employers
- Responding to redundancy, and providing opportunity, with greater numbers anticipated – including older workers potentially facing unemployment for the first time – as the full impact of the pandemic is felt
- Looking to the future, in providing new opportunities and career pathways for young people or career changers in the post-Covid local economy
Already the Taskforce is committed to supporting the Government’s Kickstart programme, with the first places now being filled and over 1,000 new vacancies in the pipeline. In addition, work is underway to support new routes into employment, improve careers guidance and the sharing of the Apprenticeship Levy to create new training opportunities. The Task Force is also developing new initiatives: these will be of direct benefit to young people planning a career and will enable employers to offer local jobs to local Kent people.
Supporting jobs in the county
KCC Leader and Task Force Chairman Roger Gough said: “I am delighted that public and private sectors have come together at this critical time to support jobs in the county, particularly for our young people. Our Employment Plan sets out our commitment to jobs at a time when many people will be anxious about the impact of the epidemic on their employers or the prospects that they may have for finding a job. We want to do all we can to keep Kent working.”
Deputy Chairman of the Task Force and Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Inward Investment, Strategic Regeneration and Partnerships, Cllr Rodney Chambers, said: “The success of Kickstart in Kent will be a major priority for the Task Force. I am very pleased that Medway Council has committed to supporting 50 places within the council as part of the excellent response already from businesses and public sector agencies across Kent and Medway."
Building on extensive support
Sarah Kennett, Department of Work and Pensions, Service Leader for Kent Jobcentres and Service Centre said: “I am delighted to be working with key partners on the Kent and Medway Employment Task Force. This is an exciting opportunity for us to work together to build on the extensive support measures that have been put in place through the Government’s Plan For Jobs."
Importance of skills and training
Paul Winter, Chairman of the Wire Belt Company and Chair of the Kent & Medway Skills Commission, said: “For those looking for work or in danger of losing their jobs due to the pandemic, the importance of clear routes into employment and support for skills development is essential. As Chair of the Kent & Medway Skills Commission I will be championing the importance of skills and training to help people back into work and help them secure new employment opportunities.”
Strengthening our support
MP for Thanet North Sir Roger Gale continued: “With parts of Kent already experiencing high levels of job losses and with more expected as the furlough scheme comes to an end, the establishment of the Task Force and the actions we can take together will be critical in strengthening our support for all those seeking work.”
MP for Ashford Damian Green said: “This is a powerful group that can really make an impact by coming together. I am pleased to be working with council and business leaders to support the county through the pandemic.”
The Board will meet regularly during 2021.