Upskilling young people is key to rebuilding the economy
As the region grapples with the challenges of a much-changed world of work post-pandemic, training and upskilling our younger workers must take the highest priority, argues Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub managing director Craig Humphrey
The rapid growth in the gig economy may mean workers in Coventry and Warwickshire need support with upskilling as the demand for their services reduces when Covid-19 lockdown measures are eased.
The latest research has highlighted a changing profile in the transport and delivery sector with an increased reliance on gig workers – those who have short-term jobs, independent contractors or freelancers – delivering goods to people’s homes.
The findings come from Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub’s current SmartRegion report. This collected data from its business engagements in April as well as statistics and information from Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, the CWLEP and other organisations.
Demand has increased in particular from those who are shielding, although households more generally have increased their demand for home deliveries.
The pandemic has also led to employees who usually worked standard hours from 9am to 5pm seeking gig jobs for additional income, or it becoming their main source of income - but these workers do not earn a regular wage since they are paid based on the quantity of services or transactions they provide.
The section of the workforce most likely to work in the gig sector tend to be young people and those from an ethnic minority background. The biggest age group in the sector are 18 to 24-year-olds, with the proportion decreasing as age increases, while there are predominantly more men than women working in the transport and delivery sector gig economy.
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said the gig economy was causing a number of complex issues in a fast-changing labour market due to Covid-19.
“Over the last decade, the gig economy in the transport and delivery sector has expanded due to many factors such as emerging new technologies, changing consumer behaviour towards more immediate on-demand expectations, and companies keen to reduce operational costs,” he said.
“This success is closely linked to the various lockdowns and restrictions on daily life due to closures of retail, restaurants and non-essential shops, many of which have found deliveries the way to keep trading throughout the pandemic and ensuring ongoing business sustainability until restrictions ease.
“Until recently, workers in this sector also did not necessarily have the same benefits as employees such as sick pay. This is changing as the wider role that gig workers play in the economy evolves, including the relationships they have with employers, along with their employment status, rights and benefits.
“Gig workers of all ages may require support with upskilling in the short-term because demand for different types of services will be less certain to predict, depending on how consumer behaviours change after restrictions are eased and, for some, it is unlikely the need for their services will consistently reach pre-pandemic levels once Covid restrictions are lifted.
“That is where the help of business support organisations such as the Growth Hub can play a pivotal role in signposting people to gain qualifications in other sectors. Going forward, there needs to be a focus on training and upskilling for younger workers particularly in the short-term to help reduce unemployment levels post-pandemic and the upskilling of gig economy workers could also help to expand their work portfolios and increase their income generation capacity."