The Job Retention Scheme must be extended for critical, strategic industrial sectors or risk the loss of key skills leaving the UK in the slow lane behind major competitors in recovering from the pandemic, trade association Make UK has said.
The call was made on the back of its latest Manufacturing Monitor tracking survey which shows strong support for the measure, with over 62% of companies either agreeing or strongly agreeing with the proposal. Just under 14% of companies surveyed disagreed with the proposal.
Furthermore, almost a quarter of companies (22.8%) of companies said they disagreed with the government’s decision to end the scheme and that it should be extended to critical sectors, while 17% said it should be extended to any business.
A further quarter (25.9%) said it should be continued should there be further lockdowns or a second wave while almost a further fifth (17.9%) said the scheme should end but another support scheme should be put in its place.
Make UK also believes that an extension to the scheme may help avoid a second wave of redundancies which the survey shows are in the pipeline.
Over two fifths of companies (42.4%) of companies asked said that they have already made redundancies while almost a further third (30.2%) said they intend to in the next six months with just over another third of companies (35.6%) saying they may do.
In particular, Make UK believes that the Aerospace and Automotive sectors are those most in need of an extension. These sectors are at the cutting edge of technologies which will be vital to growth sectors of the future employing many highly skilled, well paid people across the UK.
New analysis of official data by Make UK backs this up with the two sectors being the largest investors in research & development, accounting for more than two thirds of the total spend (36.4%). This is worth £5.9bn to the UK economy.
Stephen Phipson chief executive, Make UK, said: The protection of key skills should be a strategic national priority as this will be the first building block in getting the economy up and running.
“Ensuring that those sectors which are at the forefront of technology and will provide the growth sectors and high skill jobs in recovery should receive the greatest support possible.”
He added: “The starting point for this should be an extension of the Job Retention Scheme to those sectors which are not just our most important but who have been hit hardest.
“Failure to do so will leave us out of step with our major competitors and risk a loss of key skills when we can least afford to do so.”