How is Gloucestershire going to get its economy back on track in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic?
A hugely difficult question to answer but David Owen, chief executive of GFirstLEP, the county’s local enterprise partnership has in my view a pretty good crack at it when he says:
“Recovery from the coronavirus pandemic represents the single biggest economic challenge since the Second World War.
“However, it also represents the single biggest opportunity to reshape the British economy to make it more inclusive, productive, sustainable, innovative and resilient.”
That was David’s introduction to GFirstLEP’s Reimagine and Restart plan for the Gloucestershire economy.
I agree with it — bold words and a call to action to re-look at the way we do business to shape our county’s future. How do we do it is, of course, the big question. It will not be easy and there is no single answer or even multiple answers. Follow the link to see the full plan in detail and make your own judgement on the suggested interventions.
There are some good ideas here to help to re-start our economy, and perhaps more importantly, some new opportunities. I like the idea of re-starting the economy, not just recovering. It seems far more positive and we must have positivity at this difficult time for business to really believe in themselves.
The immediate challenge to sustaining the Gloucestershire economy is jobs. We really do face a jobs tsunami if the scary figures of people currently on furlough become a sad reality. That reality could mean that 40 per cent of the 89,000 people in Gloucestershire currently being paid by the government’s furlough scheme might lose their jobs.
These are scary figures and the total is official. What we do not know is how many of those 89,000 face losing their job by the time the furlough scheme ends in October. And we don’t know which sectors employ them.
My guess here in the county is that a high proportion will be in the hospitality sector—restaurants, pubs, cafes and food services. That 89,000 is made up of the following numbers in district council areas: Stroud 16,000; Gloucester 19,000; Cheltenham 17,000; Cotswold 12,900; Forest of Dean 11,400; Tewkesbury 12,500.
So, in my view jobs—new jobs, apprenticeships and re-training schemes are going to be vital in the next six months as young people also flood onto the employment market. I know that the Department of Work and Pensions are gearing up at the Job Centres with more staff and additional mentors. But we are going to need all our district councils to really make a difference here by helping to drive the jobs challenge.
I would like to see our district councils each coming forward with their jobs plans to assist GFirstLEP.
I would like to see all our MPs- like Gloucester MP Richard Graham is doing — to organise local jobs events quickly.
I would like to see our big companies who are bastions of apprenticeships coming forward and seeing if they can take on more of our young people.
Our great further education colleges like SGS and Gloucestershire College will be part of that apprenticeships drive too. They know that their apprentice intake this September has been decimated by the coronavirus effect on companies. But they also have the skills to ensure that a whole phalanx of our young people are not left on the employment scrapheap.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs must be the watchword for Gloucestershire in the coming months and all of us in business have a duty to help.
Ian Mean is on the main board of GFirstLEP