A freedom of information request from the BBC recently revealed that more than 498,000 workers were made redundant during the first five months of the Covid-19 pandemic. These are staggering, and extremely worrying, numbers. Those that will be hit hardest are the most vulnerable workers including people in low paid work, younger workers and those in insecure roles, such as gig workers or those on temporary contracts.
The pandemic has laid bare and exacerbated the challenges these workers face. Nesta’s recent research found that just 35 per cent of vulnerable workers are confident they would be able to find another job in three months if they were made redundant, and 30 per cent say they’d have no prospects at all.
The UK government has launched a number of support packages to help people in need, including the furlough scheme, the job support scheme and, most recently, the job entry targeted support (JETS) scheme. While extremely welcome, these measures alone will not be sufficient. To move forward and better support vulnerable workers, we need innovative solutions from businesses, charities and other organisations to create new – or build on pre-existing – ideas. Innovation and technology play a crucial role. The ability of many businesses and charities to react and adapt quickly to changing circumstances position them well to keep pace with the ever-changing challenges the pandemic presents.
In an increasingly interconnected and digital world, innovative solutions play a vital part in supporting the most vulnerable workers that have recently lost their job or seen their working hours decreased. Many organisations and businesses have already taken innovative approaches to do so, such as offering online tools to help job seekers to learn more about their strengths and skills, developing staffing platforms to match employers with employees looking for flexible working arrangements, or creating community hubs aimed at university students and recent graduates to help them build relationships.
To support workers impacted by Covid-19 in finding a new job or to better cope with the financial consequences of the pandemic, Nesta has launched the £2.8m Rapid Recovery Challenge. Supported by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and Money and Pensions Service, the challenge aims to encourage the development and scaling of innovative solutions that improve access to jobs, training and financial support.
We are looking for innovative and forward thinking businesses, charities and other organisations that are keen to develop and scale technology or service-based solutions aimed at improving an individual’s chances of gaining new skills and finding employment.
The challenge is looking for solutions that connect those workers hit hardest – including younger workers and those in or who have recently lost low-paid or insecure work – into open jobs that match their skill set. To help make these connections to live jobs, we welcome solutions that also provide tailored learning, training, or advice to people seeking work.
With thousands of people expected to lose their jobs over the coming months, now is a crucial time for businesses, charities, and organisations of all kinds to come together, and to develop and scale ideas to help vulnerable workers gain new skills and find new jobs. By aiming to inspire and accelerate innovation, the Rapid Recovery Challenge is keen to do exactly that.
For more information about the challenge and how to enter, visit rapidrecovery.challenges.org. Applications close on 26 October 2020.
Tris Dyson is managing director of Nesta Challenges