Employment and skills in South Yorkshire post-lockdown – Laura Hayfield, SCC

Written by Laura Hayfield, Acting Head of Employment and Skills, Sheffield City Council

In the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis, Opportunity Sheffield – the employment and skills service within Sheffield City Council – saw a dramatic increase in the number of employers and businesses contacting our service seeking practical support.

For individuals, many of whom had been placed on furlough or made redundant, this was through a desire to re-enter the workplace as quickly as possible. For employers in industry sectors including care, cleaning, warehousing and delivery – those put under immediate strain by the Covid response –- it was through a desire to upscale their workforce quickly and responsibly to boost capacity.

Our response was to use our positioning, expertise and contacts to bring the two parties together, both to ensure the continuity of community services and to minimise the inevitable spike in unemployment. Over the last two months, our job-broking team working flat out to match candidates to suitable vacancies, and vice-versa. Our regular Jobs Bulletin has allowed employers to reach out to prospective candidates and provided local people with a simple and straightforward route into the workplace.

While we have been reacting to the immediate challenges of the lockdown, Sheffield City Council– alongside the other South Yorkshire Local Authorities – has been taking proactive steps at a strategic levels to plan for the post-Covid economy. At present it may be difficult to picture exactly what this will look like, but there are certain key areas which are sure to require focused attention as we move away from lockdown and into recovery.

Collectively, the employment leads from the South Yorkshire Local Authorities have discussed a number of focus areas to aid and accelerate employment recovery, including:

Young people – action to support people in the 16-24 age category whose entry into the labour market, or progression, has been severely hampered or halted by the lockdown. Focus areas are likely to include, but not necessarily be restricted to, school leavers, individuals seeking an apprenticeship and new graduates

Sector Routeways support for the unemployed – targeted skills support to help individuals secure employment opportunities in the sectors where there is strong demand. These may include construction, manufacturing and care, among others

Career change and advancement – a programme of events to support individuals who are looking to change roles or industries, potentially supporting growth in key sectors. This may include, but not be limited to, sector-based academies, skills guidance, careers events and site visits

Supported employment – potential incentives and subsidies to help employers create jobs and apprenticeships, both to support their own productivity and growth and provide work opportunities for people who need them.

Digital skills – a continuing focus in terms of both employers and jobseekers. Organisations need to have the infrastructure and skills in place the meet the challenges of, and capitalise on, the opportunities presented by technology. Individuals need to have the core skills to apply for roles, succeed at interview and achieve their potential in the workplace

Workplace health and wellbeing – supporting employees in returning to work and employers in bring their teams back into the workplace. This is with adapted working practices (hygiene requirements etc) and new ways of operating in mind.

Sheffield City Council and its partners are working to build action plans designed to feed into the Sheffield City Region Mayor’s overall recovery strategy. In the meantime, we’ll be still here working with local employers and jobseekers on a daily basis, helping to support Sheffield businesses and households through the crisis.

Laura Hayfield – Acting Head of Employment and Skills, Sheffield City Council