COVID-19 and Job Matching

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In this blog, Professor Anne Green investigates the short and long-term impacts of Matching Interventions, one of the key policies in tackling the current labour market crisis.

As in previous recessions, Covid-19 brings a massive economic shock across the country but with locally specific impacts. What is different about the current recession is that the government has shutdown particular sectors of the economy. Associated economic uncertainty is compounded by the medium- and long-term impacts of social distancing measures.

Labour market policy interventions enacted at a time of recession fall into three main categories:

  • Employment interventions – including work experience, wage subsidies, public works programmes;
  • Matching interventions – providing counselling, job matching, co-ordination between programmes;
  • Education interventions – including short courses, vocational training, vocational learning.

Interventions will be needed on all three fronts. Here the focus is on the role of matching – in both the short-term and longer-term.

In the short-term there has been an increase in demand for supermarket workers, care workers, agricultural workers and drivers. On the other hand hospitality, leisure and the aviation sector have seen drops in demand.

What is different about the current recession is that the government has shutdown particular sectors of the economy.

Examples of sectoral, occupational and local/regional initiatives to help redeploy workers who are no longer working to fill jobs where demand has risen include:

Pick for Britain – which amalgamates job opportunities for pickers, packers, drivers, etc. in the horticulture and agriculture sector.

Mirimar Connect – works to match airline cabin crew to roles in other sectors that utilise their customer care, team working, cultural sensitivity, language skills, etc. It is making its service free of charge to employers of key workers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Talent Retention Solutions (TRS) – was developed to support redeployment, recruitment and skills retention across UK manufacturing, engineering, construction and STEM industries. It has developed into a national talent platform and by providing a single point of access to talent, vacancies and development opportunities. In the Covid-19 crisis, it is working to facilitate redeployment so that talent is not lost to the economy.

Proud to Care London – extended out of an initiative set up by the North London Sustainability and Transformation Partnership. Its aim was to aid recruitment and retention in the health and care sector. It has been used to help with recruitment during the Covid-19 pandemic and demonstrates what can be done for a particular sector at the regional level.

In the longer-term, there is evidence that matching to a good quality job with prospects for career progression is beneficial for the individual concerned and for the economy more generally. Sector-based initiatives can work well here.

An example is WorkAdvance in the US. The logic model underpinning WorkAdvance is that offering low-income individuals education and employment-related skills and experience in high-demand sectors will help them advance in the labour market.

WorkAdvance has five components:

1) Intensive screening of programme applicants for motivation and readiness, to ensure that participants who can take advantage of the training and qualify for jobs in the target sector

2) Sector-appropriate pre-employment and career readiness services, including an orientation to the sector and career advancement coaching.

3) Sector-specific occupational skills training aligned with employer needs, leading to certifications that are in demand in the regional labour market.

4) Sector-specific job development and placement services based on strong relationships with employers and intended to facilitate entry into positions that participants have been trained for and that offer genuine opportunities for continued skills development and career advancement

5) Post-employment retention and advancement services, including ongoing contact, coaching, skills training, and rapid reemployment help if needed

Evaluation of the long-term economic impacts of WorkAdvance show that sector-focused programmes can lead to career progression and earnings gain. However, taking care to work on a ‘good match’ at the outset is key.

The response and recovery to Covid-19 calls for job matching in both the short-term and the long-term to aid economic regeneration and employability.

This blog was written by Professor Anne Green, Professor of Regional Economic Development, City-REDI  / WM REDI, University of Birmingham.

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The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of City-REDI / WM REDI or the University of Birmingham

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