Ian Pretty blog Back to list News 04.10.22 The other Covid-19 legacy: the labour gap The departure of huge swaths of over-50s from the UK workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic has been linked to wage inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. In August, former Treasury civil servant and current chairwoman of the John Lewis Partnership Dame Sharon White said, “Regardless of what has happened coming out of Covid, if the labour market is that tight, if we continue to have far fewer people in work [or] looking for work – you’ve inevitably got more inflation and more wage inflation.” Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis shows there are around 500,000 fewer people in paid work in the UK during the first quarter of 2022 than before the Covid-19 pandemic. Official statistics reveal that this is due, in part, to over-50s choosing to leave the workforce. Brexit has also been a source of churn for the labour market with around 100,000 fewer EU workers than before the pandemic. At Collab Group, we believe that upskilling the existing and future workforce through courses delivered at further education (FE) colleges will help to address this growing concern. Chief Executive Ian Pretty said, “We believe FE colleges offer the right solutions for the UK’s current, and impending, skills and economic growth challenges and are a potent agency of the government’s levelling up agenda. “Collab Group member colleges have qualified teachers who teach ‘in demand’ skills to an industry standard; our member colleges work closely with local and national employers across all major sectors of the economy, ensuring FE education is more closely aligned to the needs of the economy as well as increasing employment opportunities for graduates; and our member college graduates earn significantly more than they would have otherwise.” “Additionally, our member colleges offer a rich and diverse social and learning experience that can equip students with the knowledge, skills and experiences to be successful in the future world of work.” It is essential the UK workforce can train, retrain and/or upskill in ‘in demand’ areas. Indeed, a recent report by the Skills Taskforce for Global Britain found that 46 per cent of foreign firms said they would move their operations abroad if they couldn’t get the skills they needed, compared with just over 22 per cent of domestic firms. The report added that UK foreign direct investment was too concentrated in the economically dominant areas of London and the south-east, so creating higher skilled and better paid jobs was vital to the government’s levelling up agenda. At Collab Group, we believe FE colleges offer a rich and diverse experience that can help people be successful in the future world of work. They also offer the right solutions for the UK’s current, and impending, skills and economic growth challenges. Training, retraining and/or upskilling is a sensible decision and will undoubtedly help to address the UK’s other Covid-19 legacy; the labour gap.