Bosses should be given a cash incentive to recruit long-term unemployed young Scots for work experience placements, a report suggests.
With the Scottish Government having warned the coronavirus crisis could see the unemployment rate rise from its current 4.6% to 14% by the end of 2020, ministers are also being urged to look at what can be done to minimise “failures of otherwise successful businesses”.
The report, produced by a sub-group of the existing Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board, recommends the Government “must look at fiscal options directly or via the banks”.
Board chair Nora Senior said the group had “worked at pace to develop recommendations that we believe can be implemented quickly – not just to help keep people in employment, but also to support those facing redundancy or have already lost their job”.
Ms Senior, an award-winning businesswoman who has served as president of the British Chambers of Commerce, added: “The report highlights the need for a society-wide, civic response.
“The Scottish Government, its agencies, partners such as local authorities and crucially employers in all sectors should come together immediately to contribute to the effort required to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic.”
The sub-group also includes Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron, Frank Mitchell of Skills Development Scotland, and former Scottish Trades Union Congress general-secretary Grahame Smith.
The Scottish Government had asked the group to look at what practical measures can be put in place quickly.
The report recommends short placement schemes providing work experience for under-25s who have been out of work for six months, with an employer subsidy introduced.
Other suggestions include incentivising companies to keep staff and take on new workers, and a “scaling up of online learning from universities” so people can improve their skills in key areas.
The report called for direct grants for training or retraining workers in sectors hardest hit by Covid-19, such as hospitality and tourism.
It warned: “This is a national emergency and now is the time for even greater collaboration right across the enterprise and skills system to ensure we put in place measures to help Scottish businesses and individuals in the coming months.”
Mr Mitchell said: “The availability of work is the key economic challenge emerging from the Covid-19 crisis and we need to take action that will support both businesses and individuals during the recovery.
“That means helping employers retain staff while taking an innovative approach to training and apprenticeships that will help people find work.”
The report was published less than two weeks after a Scottish Government advisory group led by former Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins called for guaranteed jobs for young people in response to coronavirus.
Business minister Jamie Hepburn said the Government will now consider both reports.
Mr Hepburn said: “The economic impact of Covid-19 continues to be severe, and one of the most concerning aspects is the risk of increased and potentially sustained unemployment. That is something we will do everything we can to prevent.”
He said the reports provide “valuable ideas for how we can provide workers – particularly young people – with the skills and opportunities they need to be able to play an active and fulfilling role in the workforce”.