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Balancing both sides of the skills equation

This week London First brought together business leaders, skills providers and young people, to grapple with London’s skills debate and look ahead at forging solutions.

Ark’s King Solomon Academy, one of the country’s highest performing state schools made a fitting setting, and there were lessons from all parties on the challenges to be tackled head on.

It was a privilege to hear two year ten students recall some of their opportunities to engage with employers; and the impact this has made on their outlook, confidence and understanding of the workplace. This brought home research from the Education and Employers Taskforce; young people who have four or more workplace encounters while at school are 86% less likely to be NEET (not in education, employment or training) and, on average, will go on to earn 18% more than their peers who did not.

John Allan, as Chair of the London First Skills Commission, strategically addressed the challenge the group has set its self as it tackles the “complex skills equation, from both a supply (skills providers) and demand (employers) side.” The Skills Commission aims to set action plans for London government, central government and business to drive much needed improvement to the current system. However, it is already clear that a crucial ingredient of success will be building a solid partnership between business, government and skills providers.

John acknowledged that “Whilst we may not have all the answers to solve a challenge that’s been about for decades, we can still achieve a great deal.”

Angus Knowles-Cutler, Vice Chairman Deloitte, shared top lines from Deloitte’s recent skills mapping research. The skills question was likened to a moving target, as we try to assess the impact of Brexit, a changing economy and technology developments. However, Knowles-Cutler spoke firmly of the 3Cs that employers increasingly value over traditional, technical knowledge – creativity, collaboration and cognitive skills. These are the skills that will keep the next generation agile and equipped for the evolving workplace.

Angus joined the panel with Amanda Timberg, Head of Staffing Programs, EMEA Google and Hannah McAuley, Ark Schools’ national Head of University and Careers Success. Despite coming at the issue from different angles, there was agreement that work must be done on all sides to better understand one another, with each holding a piece of the jigsaw.

With much work to do, it was good to look ahead at immediate opportunities for business, skills providers and young people to come together, at Skills London the UK’s largest jobs and skills event in November.

If today’s breakfast taught us anything, it’s that opportunities for young people to engage with employers, and access work based learning and work experience are critical to equipping our future workforce.

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