When Covid struck this country back in the spring and we went into lockdown, we had to put our lifestyles and livelihoods on hold to protect our lives.
Lockdown became shutdown.
But most of us knew that staying cocooned would be unsustainable once the first onslaught of the virus had abated. Inch by inch, we’ve been reclaiming the streets, returning to shops, markets, and our leisure activities. And from Monday, many will physically re-enter their workplaces, although just as many may carry on working remotely as part of the ‘new normal’ if their employer allows this.
The big concern is for those who can’t just go back to work.
To my mind, urgently addressing their situation is the next mammoth Covid-related issue. National high street names have closed down, or cut branches, local businesses have gone under, or delayed reopening, hundreds and thousands of jobs have already disappeared, and people rightly worry that others may vanish when the cushion of furlough, funded by central government, comes to an end in October.
I’m afraid all the predictions say unemployment will surge across the UK, and it seems as if women and young people are in the front line – customer-facing roles are frequently filled by women, and there’s already evidence of a distressing rise in youth unemployment, fears of a ‘lost generation’ among what’s been tagged the ‘Corona class of 2020’.
Cold comfort, but at least it’s on the radar, a known unknown that we can plan for, working out how best we can orchestrate help for those affected here in Cambridgeshire & Peterborough.
Although it’s young as organisations go, the Combined Authority, with its networks and partnerships, is uniquely placed to pull together action for people whose livelihood and prospects are threatened by Covid. Not only can we use the employment-support services we’ve built up over these months, but I won’t hesitate to use our strong relationship with Government to get our region’s voice heard.
Through the Combined Authority’s close link with the big hitters of the Business Board – Cambridgeshire & Peterborough’s local enterprise partnership - we’re reaching into the business community as never before, identifying new ways where we can help.
Our team has developed a range of online resources to support employers seeking staff, or trying to safeguard jobs, and workers looking for jobs or apprenticeships. Whether it is 121 business advice webinars, skills training, or retraining, we’re offering key assets to anyone who turns to us.
And we’re ramping up our efforts at all levels, including pulling together a coalition of response through the Mayor’s Forum, in partnerships with the Business Board, and through our own intense and broad-based digital campaign to engage directly with those offering or seeking work - and, where possible, making matches that will usher many into bright post-Covid futures.