British industry has called for the government’s furlough scheme to be extended to preserve key skills in the workplace.
The manufacturer’s organisation Make UK has warned of what it called a jobs and research and development disaster with the loss of specialist skills unless the furlough scheme is extended for them.
The organisation said that the two areas most in need of help are aerospace and automotive because they have been hit the hardest by the pandemic and they support high skill, highly paid jobs that are most important for economic recovery.
It added that losing them would put Britain at a disadvantage to foreign competitors.
The plea was made as it became clear that the government intends to stick to its October 31st deadline for the job retention scheme to end.
Make UK, which represents 20,000 companies of all sizes in engineering, manufacturing, technology and the wider industrial sector, has highlighted the help already given by France and Spain to sectors like aerospace and warned there would be a second phase of job losses if no help is given.
In its latest survey, two thirds of its members said they would or might make more redundancies in the next six months.
Chief executive Stephen Phipson 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 that are at the forefront of technology and will provide the growth sectors and high-skill jobs in recovery should receive the greatest support possible.”
The cost of the furlough scheme so far is more than £35 billion with the government paying 80% of the wages of more than 9.6 million people for months, dropping to 70% at the start of September. It falls to 60% at the start of October and ceases altogether at the end of the month.
Make UK said that aerospace companies and carmakers are Britain’s largest investors in research and development, spending £5.9 billion a year. Latest figures produced by the sectors show that though business is starting to improve again, 61% reported a fall in sales over last year and 50.7% had experienced a fall in orders.
A recent survey by insurer Simply Business revealed that if the country were to experience another lockdown over the winter almost a fifth of small and medium sized businesses said they would not survive.
Another 32% said the impact would be worse than the first lockdown with only 5% saying they could cope better this time.
A Treasury spokesman said the scheme will have been open for eight months by the time it ends, adding: “We’ve been clear that that we can’t sustain this situation indefinitely and must now focus on providing fresh work opportunities for those in need across the UK.”