The Head of Business presented the above report, details of which had been previously circulated to Members. The purpose of the report was to update Members on the labour market interventions progressed with stakeholders to help mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labour market.
Councillor Durkan welcomed the report. She referred to the stark unemployment crisis and the threat of people finding themselves unemployed for the first time in their working lives. She added that pre-Covid-19 businesses were struggling and having to deal with the uncertainty that surrounded Brexit and it was an increasingly anxious time for businesses. She referred to the furlough scheme which was due to end next month and was encouraged to note that some MLA’s had put forward a motion to extend the furlough scheme in Northern Ireland, similar to other countries that agreed for the scheme to be extended to 2021 and even 2022.
Councillor Dukan proposed, seconded by Councillor Cooper that this Council made representation to the British Government to call for an extension of the furlough scheme and to be replaced with the self-employment income support scheme and job retention scheme, particularly for sectors such as hospitality, non-food retail and arts/culture throughout the region.
Alderman Ramsey proposed an amendment to the previous proposal, and for Council to write to the MP’s representing the City and District Council area. Councillor Cooper seconded the amended proposal.
Councillor Cooper welcomed the report. He stated that it was essential for the reskilling of people from other sectors to be pursued and extra resources was required in order to return to the labour skills market. He further stated that duplication of training programmes had to be prevented and there had to be clear targets set and for discussion to take place across the board. He added that it was encouraging to note increased collaboration amongst Council Officials and the Universities/Colleges, however it was essential to create a Job Creation and Skills Unit within Council. He proposed that a report be brought back to Committee in that regard. Councillor Mellon seconded the proposal.
Councillor R Barr left the meeting.
Alderman Guy commented that it was heartening to note the forging of close linkages between the Business Directorate and the Mayor of the City of London.
Councillor M Boyle referred to the most vulnerable highly skilled workforce within the construction industry and in particular those workers who were aged 50+ who were currently furloughed and faced the risk of losing their jobs due to the current pandemic crisis. She asked if there was any scope within the Employment Academy to engage with this sector in going forward.
The Head of Business advised Members that the former Derry City Council had achieved a good track record in terms of working on a number of projects with people to identify where the skills gap existed. The Construction Employment Academy provided a re-engagement of local trade providers and to build confidence to explore an alternative career/job pathway. He added that the process would begin with having a conversation and hopefully would result in a clearly defined pathway for people to be encouraged and to explore, it was about adopting a more holistic approach to numerous initiatives established over previous years.
The Head of Business in response to the Chair, clarified that in terms of leverage of funding, the majority of initiatives would be delivered in collaboration and when the Skills Academy would be relaunched the Colleges would have an input in the augmentation process.
Recommended i) that Council approve the interventions and associated allocation of budgets;
ii) that Council notes that regular reports will be presented to Members to provide an update on the progression of each initiative; iii) that Council writes to the UK Government and local MP’s to call for an extension to the furlough scheme and to be replaced with the self-employment income support scheme and job retention scheme; iv) for consideration to be given to the creation of a Job Creation and Skills Unit within Council and for a report to be brought back to Committee in due course.