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Industry bosses cast doubt on jobs ‘bootcamp’ plans – BBC News

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  • Author, Lora Jones & Sam Francis
  • Role, Business reporter & Political reporter

Industry bosses have cast doubt on new plans for skills “bootcamps” for unemployed Britons as part of government efforts to plug gaps in the jobs market left by overseas workers.

The government already runs intensive training “bootcamps” to help people out of work retrain in many sectors, but new, initial plans will focus on industries hit hardest by labour shortages from new migration rules.

Work and pensions secretary Mel Stride said the UK had relied on foreign labour “for too long”.

But industry figures suggested the plans may not be enough for businesses that are at “breaking point”.

Under the latest plans, benefits claimants would be given training for roles in key sectors facing shortages including hospitality, care, construction and manufacturing.

The new model will be partly based on the measures introduced in 2021 to target a chronic shortage of HGV drivers, which included skills “bootcamps” and Jobcentre training schemes.

Mr Stride said: “It’s a plan providing more opportunities for people here at home to get on, to progress, and to increase their pay.

“I know this presents a recruitment challenge for some employers in certain sectors, particularly those that have relied more on migration in the past.

“For too long we have relied on labour from abroad when there is great talent right here in the UK – I am determined to put that right.”

Image caption, Construction is one of the industries expected to be hardest hit by new visa rules

Mr Stride will also chair a new cross-government taskforce to develop recruitment initiatives for industries with major shortages.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said the trade body was pleased to be working with the government to fill “crucial gaps” in the workforce.

However, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation questioned the prioritisation of British workers over foreign workers when employers are struggling to fill many job postings.

“The bottom line is that many British businesses are at breaking point because of labour shortages,” said Kate Shoesmith, its deputy chief executive.

“It shouldn’t be about picking winners or employing British workers over foreigners. It is about creating the right conditions for long-term, sustainable economic growth”.

Engineering and manufacturing organisation Make UK said many employers were not aware of existing “bootcamps” and that any new measures needed to be promoted properly.

Meanwhile, TUC general secretary Paul Nowak suggested the announcement did not include enough detail on its implementation, describing it as “performative politics”.

‘Talking shop’

Labour also dismissed the proposals as a “talking shop” that would not deal with the scale of the problem.

The plans, overseen by a new ministerial taskforce headed by Mr Stride, come ahead of official net migration statistics set to be published on Thursday.

These include drastically hiking the salary threshold for skilled workers to £38,700 and reforms to make it harder for Britons earning under the national average to bring over foreign spouses.

Mr Stride acknowledged the new rules, which aim to reduce the number of people arriving in Britain by 300,000, present a “recruitment challenge” for employers.

He insisted the government was building a new economic model “based on British talent”.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Alison McGovern accused the government of “running down our skills and training system”.

She said: “We now have record levels of net migration. They should be putting in place proper plans to tackle worker shortages and adopting Labour’s plans to connect the immigration system to skills.”

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokeswoman, Wendy Chamberlain, said: “In many ways this is an admission that the Conservatives have no plan to tackle the biggest reason that people are unable to work, which is that NHS waiting lists are through the roof.

“Thousands are struggling to access the healthcare they need, meaning people are unable to go back to work.

“We will only get the economy back fighting fit by fixing the health crisis,” she added.

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