UK needs 'GI Bill' to retrain workers to boost post-Covid economy

Britain needs modern ‘GI Bill’ to retrain workers as digital experts to boost post-Covid economy says Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

  • Mr Dowden says he will work with businesses to create digital training and jobs
  • He said: ‘We need a strategy that will help workers here adjust to a digital-led economy after coronavirus’
  • GI Bill launched in 1944 gave minimum wage, training and jobs to war veterans 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Britain is planning to launch its own ‘GI Bill’ like the one brought in in America in 1944 to help soldiers learn new skills after the Second World War to fire up the UK economy after months of lockdown.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said he will work with businesses to create new digital training and jobs in an attempt to put ‘fuel back in the tank’ of the economy after it was tipped into recession because of coronavirus.

The comments come just a day after the new head of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, warned Britain faces the sharpest rise in unemployment in his lifetime, as part of the worst recession in more than 300 years.

In a speech to the UK Tech Cluster Group today, Mr Dowden pledgec that he is ‘looking at ways to build a highly skilled digital workforce across every region of the UK, so that people can shift into the digital or tech sectors or digitise their own businesses.

‘The GI bill gave American veterans the skills and qualifications to move into new areas of work after World War Two, helping them to readjust to civilian life. Likewise, we need a strategy that will help workers here adjust to a digital-led economy after coronavirus.’ 

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden believes its own version of the GI Bill in the US to fire up the British economy, support businesses and those who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic

Mr Dowden will pledge to retrain people for the digital world, and also change the rules on how online data is stored so businesses can ‘share vital information quickly, efficiently and ethically’.

How US’ 1944 GI Bill became the model for helping people into work and education after a global crisis 

The G.I. Bill was enacted in 1944 following World War II to help soldiers readjust into civilian life. It gave them help with loans, education and living expenses. There have been numerous amendments since. 

There were the benefits, financial and educational, for ex-service men and women who served in the globaal conflict.

The new law, signed by  Franklin Roosevelt, included new legislation governing labour relations, a minimum wage, social security, disability and unemployment insurance. 

These were the result of the intense social solidarity that emerges whenever a group experiences threat and collective danger. 

UK Ministers believe the same applies here following the coronavirus crisis. 

He also believes 5G will be at the centre of his plan to ensure Britain has ‘world-class, next generation’ and help British tech wizards produce ‘the next killer app’. 

He will say: ‘Right now, our clear priority must be growth – using tech to power us out of the recession, to drive productivity and create jobs in all parts of the tech industry, region by region, and in all parts of our economy’.

The GI Bill was enacted in 1944 to help soldiers readjust into civilian life when the war ended a year later. It gave them help with loans, education and living expenses. 

There have been numerous amendments since including one post-9/11 offering financial support for education and housing to people who have served in the U.S. military for at least 90 days after September 10, 2001.

To receive the support, soldiers must have been honorably discharged from duty. The benefits last for 15 years following release from active duty and provide 36 months of coverage.

The Bill covers full tuition and fees paid directly to the school for public school, in-state students. Some funds are covered for private or foreign schools but they are capped.

It covers training including undergraduate and graduate degrees, vocational training and flight training.

The Prime Minister has warned of ‘painful times ahead’ after a record borrowing binge pushed the national debt above size of the entire economy.

The vast hole blown in the public finances by the coronavirus crisis was laid bare in figures published by the Office for National Statistics, which showed total government debt surged to £1.95trillion in May.

This is 100.9 per cent of Britain’s entire annual output, and marks the first time total government debt has exceeded GDP since 1963, when the country was still weighed down with debt from the Second World War.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the GI Bill of Rights in 1944, which provided broad benefits for veterans of Second World War as they returned to civilian life

The grim milestone was reached after the UK plunged £55.2billion into the red last month, taking Britain’s borrowing binge in the first two months of the lockdown to £103.7billion.

Underscoring the toll that the coronavirus crisis has taken on the public finances, the amount borrowed last month is roughly the same as the Office of Budget Responsibility predicted in March that the UK would have to borrow during the whole year.

Income from tax, national insurance and VAT all slumped as the lockdown forced businesses to close and households to stay at home.

Meanwhile the spiralling costs of emergency measures to protect businesses and jobs, including £10.5billion on the Job Retention Scheme for furloughed workers, pushed the public finances deeper into the red.

Economists warned public borrowing is on track to exceed official forecasts of just under £300billion this year, twice as much as during the depths of the Great Recession more than a decade ago.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies insisted that the public should not be too alarmed by the surge in debt, as it has been fuelled by emergency measures the Government has taken to protect the economy.

But the UK’s most respected economic think tank also warned households would have to ‘live with a mix of some tax rises alongside an acceptance of higher debt’ after the initial crisis passes.

The proportion of people who believe the UK will return to ‘normal’ within six months has dived since April, according to the ONS survey

The public’s expectations for UK plc over the coming 12 months are worse than at the height of the financial crisis, while unemployment fears also spiked last month

Prime minister Boris Johnson has refused to rule out tax rises to help pay for the coronavirus crisis but insisted there will be no repeat of the austerity drive that followed the last financial crisis. Yesterday, he said:’I do think the British economy is remarkably resilient, we will come out of this in the end. But there will be some difficult times ahead.’

‘I think the British public understand that, they can see there has been a huge economic cost for what has happened.’ ‘There has been a massive lack of economic activity for a very long time – of course that is going to be a painful and expensive to make up.’ ‘But we are a very creative and dynamic society, we will come back.’  

As the Government faces intense pressure from business leaders to relax the two metre social distancing rule, Rishi Sunak stressed the need to ease the lockdown safely and get people back to work. 

Separate figures published by the ONS showed retail sales bounced back 12 per cent last month, following a record 18.1 per cent crash in April – the first full month of lockdown.

The rebound was driven in part by a DIY spending spree as hardware shops and garden centres reopened.

Sales at household goods stores such as hardware, furniture and paint shops surged 42 per cent

The latest surge in borrowing eclipses anything seen during the financial crisis. 

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