Building the Workforces of Tomorrow

In the second keynote of the CIPD annual conference, the panel discussion was made up of Peter Cheese, CEO of the CIPD, Michael Davis, UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), Ann Pickering of O2, Toby Peyton-Jones, Siemens Plc, and Jo Swinson MP, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The discussion was focused on how the UK is taking steps to shape the workforce of tomorrow. It was a good panel, and all offered various insights into what different quarters are providing in terms of solutions. Micheal Davis went first to highlight some of the trends being observed by the commission. They found a range of results like:
– Young people are more sober, better behaved and more austere according to recent research.
– Small businesses tend to use informal recruitment practices.
– It’s hard to get into work if you haven’t got the right social connections, network or community.
– Only 1 in 4 employers offers an education leaver a job opportunity.

The last point was the one that stood out the most to me. Only 1 in 4 employers is willing to give an education leaver a job opportunity. You can see why there is such risk aversion in this economy, yet if we’re giving the workforce of tomorrow opportunities to enter work, then we’re only going to cripple the future of business.

Apprenticeships are not clear job/career choices for many young people and although has improved in UK, is comparatively poor against European counterparts. This was also a concern. There has been a rise in the number of apprenticeships on offer, and the number of young people entering work through those schemes, but we’re just not doing enough. Le Sigh.

Most important I think for business practices is about the recruitment process. The biggest challenge to young people in applying for jobs is getting feedback on why they haven’t been successful to help them improve. I experienced this as a ‘skilled porfessional’ and I’m quite wisened to the world (hush), and to hear that young people aren’t offered such valuable information is just baffling.

The piece from Ann was intersting about what’s happening at Telefonica. There are technical skills they know they will need. For those, they can plan effectively. However, emerging technology means can’t predict skills for the future. Some years back you would never have considered that you need a full time social media manager or communities manager to manage online conversations. I’ve heard the term digital natives before, and this is about the mindset people need to have. It’s a transformation of hiring for attitude in this respect.

They’ve got some interesting initiatives such as “Think Big Learning”, bringing in young people to play with technology and build their confidence. A key insight they found was that young people have skills in abundance in technology which is hidden and they don’t recognise it. This presents them with the opprtunity to get involved, discover those abilities and unleash them.

Toby from Siemens gave some great insights into cross-culturual perspectives. Apprenticeships in the UK are not as pervasive as they are in Germany. he expalined how the apprentice schemes are both very well delivered and produce great talent, but the problem is the numbers of people entering the schemes. This seems such a shame.

Probably the most interesting thing that Siemens have done is to do a mega trends study. This showed the big things to be concerned about in the future will be the energy crisis, mega cities, and changing demographics. Based on this they have decided to change what markets they continue to operate in. For example, they now have stopped being in the mobile phone market. Another thing this helped them to realise was where they were going to focus their recruitment, and thereby what their future requirements will be.

Further to the mega trends study, Siemens are taking skills shortage seriously by introducing own vocational schools tied to production plants. Through this the workforce gain access to experience work, and study the skills they need. To my mind, many of the big companies in London Town should be doing the same. By creating partnerships with local colleges and the likes, there is no reason they can’t get over the skills shortage if they’re a core part of the solution.

Jo Swinson helped raise some perspectives frm government such as:
– status of apprenticeships needs to be given more importance. University route isn’t for everyone, must consider vocational qualifications.
– new forms of communication present challenges to old ways of working. The digital evolution creates challenges for those not adapting to new technologies.
– talking about presenteeism, and need to develop thinking on flexible working and the technologies available to enable this.
– results showing engaged workforces take less sick days and are better advocates of their employers.

All in, this was a useful session offering some useful insights into what’s happening now, and where we need to be looking next.