By s1 jobs

In terms of chiming with the national mood, the tone was clearly off-key.

That ad, suggesting that the ballet dancer “Fatima” should shift to a career in cybersecurity, was an absolute clanger on so many levels that it’s difficult to pick a single point where the critique begins. Widely mocked and described as “crass”, it was quickly pulled earlier this month from the UK Government’s Cyber First campaign to get young people into tech jobs.

As in so many other industries, the culture sector is suffering thousands of job losses as the coronavirus pandemic works its way through the economy. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics reported 227,000 redundancies in the third quarter of this year, a situation that will sadly get worse as the Government’s furlough scheme comes to a close after Saturday.

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The new Job Support Scheme that will take the place of furlough is set to run for six months, and is said to be designed to protect “viable” jobs. Where businesses are completely shut by local lockdowns, it will pay two-thirds of wages, up to a maximum of £2,100 per month, to each employee.

In all other cases, the scheme was originally set to pay one-third of hours not worked, up to a cap of £697.92 per month, to those getting paid by their employer to work at least a third of their usual hours. Widely regarded as falling short of the support many will require going into the winter months, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced changes last week in which the Government will now pay “at least” 62 per cent of the wages of staff working a minimum of 20% of their normal hours.

To what extent this will stave off another wave of redundancies and business closures remains to be seen. As the Chancellor has repeatedly stated, and as too many workers are painfully aware, we “can’t save every job”.

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In that context, the Digital First campaign has got it right. The focus now must shift to rapidly retraining those who have been made redundant for new roles in sectors that are more resilient to the rolling programme of lockdown restrictions that appears to be our lot for at least several more months to come.

That’s why the Fatima gaffe is so lamentable. It failed to convey the correct message, which is that we need to help people find work where their skills are transferrable.

Providing funded or affordable training for new professions will not happen at adequate speed if left solely to Government devices. It’s time for businesses in sectors where skills are in short supply to step up in the drive to realign the workforce.