A major new Government-led scheme could be set up in Northern Ireland to help those who have lost jobs amid the Covid-19 crisis retrain and find new employment, Ulster Business can reveal.
A new Stormont-led ‘Work Ready’ employment service would work in addition to the existing Jobs and Benefits, but focus on expertise to supplement that with specialist areas or the ability to “ramp up and down” when needed.
It’s also warning that unemployment levels, while already at record highs, are “likely to increase when government support tapers off”
The scheme is being proposed by the Department for Communities. It’s being designed to help those who have lost their jobs, but are ready to start work in a similar or entirely different area of employment.
As part of an early market consultation, pre-tender, it says a “large number of work ready people on the lower end of the skills spectrum may become unemployed”.
It also says it’s aimed at helping vulnerable people such as those with health conditions, ex-offenders, former carers, for example, to find new roles. And it’s looking at those recently unemployed people who “will become economically inactive with new or exacerbated health conditions especially mental health conditions”.
The early proposal also says that “existing long term unemployed, economically inactive and disabled people will face greater labour market competition from recently unemployed people” and adds that “young people exiting education or training run the risk of longer term scarring”.
It’s carrying out a market consultation with those who could potentially be involved in scheme, and says procurement options include a “multi-supplier” framework agreement, a ‘one-stop-shop’ single contract for specific regions, or a contract for services right across all of the Northern Ireland’s council areas.
“As part of a move across government in Northern Ireland to respond to the impacts of Covid-19 outbreak and the potential significant rise in unemployment, the Department for Communities (DfC) has initiated a project to assess the feasibility and benefits of establishing a ‘Work Ready’ Employment Services contract to help people who may have lost their job,” the document says.
It describes those ‘Work Ready’ people as those who “have been affected by job losses unexpectedly, are experienced in their field, eager to find new employment and therefore are deemed to be ‘work ready’, albeit they may require support to re-enter the labour market”
The Department says the purpose of the market consultation exercise is “to gain an understanding of the current capability and capacity to deliver Work Ready Employment Services throughout NI as well as understand the latest developments and innovations in the delivery of these services utilising a range of channels”.
The consultation is now open and closes on July 16.