Monday’s highly anticipated ‘lockdown roadmap’ announcement has left in its wake a mixed feeling amongst businesses, but one of overwhelming positivity with some ‘normality’ set to return to our shores over the coming weeks and months.
Lots of the hardest hit industries, including retail and hospitality, have a new glimmer of hope and can set the wheels in motion to reopen their doors soon. In fact, data from Keep Britain Working reveals that job listings are expected to reach pre-pandemic levels by spring. Others – such as the currently inactive aviation market – still have some way to go before any sort of normality can resume.
The lifting of restrictions is broken down into five-week intervals, prioritising the return of school children to educational settings in March. The plan will be implemented based on four key tests, all of which must be passed for the staggered lifting of restrictions to take place.
Commenting on the news, Ged Mason, CEO of the Morson Group – the official Northern Partner of the Keep Britain Working campaign – said: “As we prepare for a summer which sounds like it’ll be more akin to those we enjoyed before the pandemic, one key element appears to be missing – there is still no set date for when international travel can resume, or will be deemed safe. And if measures aren’t taken to help the aviation industry prepare for this, longer-term damage is going to inflict on a market that has already suffered the consequences of the pandemic.
“The Government is set to release a global aviation report in April, detailing the state of the market and the steps it will take to boost the industry again. But to ensure the public can enjoy holidays overseas – and give those working in the sector their livelihoods back – will take the mobilisation of an enormous supply chain.
“Aircraft that have been grounded for months will need engineers to carry out maintenance and service programmes; airports looking to entice customers back to their premises will need to upgrade their buildings in line with new trends and priorities; baggage handlers, traffic officers, attendants and pilots will need to be brought back from furlough to get planes in the air. This is the bread and butter of the industry and requires talent, which will mean many can get back to work.
“That said, there continues to be a lot of ‘what ifs’ around the unlocking. Though it’s predicted the travel and aviation sectors will achieve normal levels of operation within the next 12 to 18 months – which would be a hugely positive outcome – many organisations will be finding it difficult to plan for the future. This, however, can also be seen as a positive – particularly amongst the contractor market. While those in the sector might be unwilling to invest in permanent labour, they will be looking for immediate, short-term resource that can be quickly mobilised across multiple sites, offering specific expertise to help build back better. This is a huge opportunity for those with the skills to transfer to different roles and who want to capitalise on lucrative markets. Because although the recovery in aviation might be slower than other sectors, once it’s deemed safe to do so again, public hunger for international travel is going to be at its highest level in years, and looks set to thrive for a long time to come.”
Additional data from Keep Britain Working demonstrates a clear appetite to reskill and redeploy into high demand industries, with REED recording a 64% year-on-year increase in training registrations.
James Reed, chairman of REED and founder of Keep Britain Working, added: “In February, we have seen a 14 per cent increase, month-on-month, in jobs. We’ve had 153,000 new jobs in the first three weeks of February alone, which is actually 4 per cent up year-on-year, even pre-pandemic.
“We are seeing a lot more administration jobs posted, which is encouraging because it suggests companies are potentially planning to reopen their offices.”
With all that said, those with skills relevant to aviation and administration should see the Prime Minister’s announcement as a major step forward. Progress will be steady, but we will arrive at a time when international travel and office-based working once again becomes the norm. When it does, it’ll be a win for our economy, our people and our country.