Like many others I mourn the news that the John Lewis store will not be re-opening when the shops return in April. It is another visible sign of how tough life is for all traditional retailers in an era of increasing online shopping. It says more about John Lewis’ problems than it does about Ashford.
I have spoken to the Chief Executive Dame Sharon White, and she has assured me that she is confident they can find roles for many of the staff, and that they are looking at better click and collect provision, not least at the nearby Waitrose.
This gives added impetus to the need to make sure we have jobs for people as the economy unlocks over the next few months. It is perhaps not surprising that as the need for help, particularly for younger workers, increases, we will see another Job Centre open soon in County Square. This is for the good reason that more work coaches are being recruited in Ashford to help people into employment.
Specifically for people between the ages of 16 and 24 is the Kickstart scheme. Employers should find this attractive, as it offers them a new worker for six months for free. 25 wages a week are paid by the Government, and the employer also receives a £1500 set-up payment for each young worker taken on.
From the point of view of someone looking for experience, and the ability to show what you can do in the workplace, the attractions are also obvious. Despite this Ashford does not yet have enough employers signed up to provide the number of places we need.
I would encourage any employer who might need one or more new starters over the coming months to consider Kickstart, Everyone has suffered over the past 12 months, but let’s try our hardest to give young people the easiest possible path back to normality.