Work in 2030 Brighton & Hove City V|sioning

The Big Debate: 'Future of Work: Are we Doing Enough About Future Skills?'

This was the main question that brought together a room of almost 200 people on 2nd May at the Greater Brighton Metropolitan College at this insightful event hosted by Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce.

The University of Sussex and Brighton & Hove 2030 Vision co-sponsored the event.

Businesses, workers, teachers and trainers were brought together with a panel of business owners, education leads and futurists to discuss the challenges involved in keeping up with the fast changes being experienced; what new thinking is needed to make this happen, from changing perceptions about work and training, to adapting the tax system; and to think about innovations that may be required in the future of work.

The event was Chaired by Richard Freeman, founder of Always Possible and the panel included Nick Juba - Chief Executive Officer at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College; Jacqueline O'Reilly - Professor of Comparative Human Resource Management at University of Sussex; Matt Parkinson – Managing Director at Gene Commerce; Catherine Parkinson - Director of Goldfinch & Associates; and Steve Wells - COO of Fast Future Publishing.

See what the experts had to say:

Lucy Paine, Catalyst Programme Manager at the Sussex Innovation Centre, shares the key themes that resonated with her from the debate

We live in an amazing city, on the beach but only an hour from London which each year brings new people looking for a different lifestyle and workstyle. Our appeal brings its own challenges, including the cost of living for Brightonians and a lack of jobs but many of our issues are shared across the country as the world of work evolves.

The Big Debate, organised by Brighton Chamber, on future skills featured plenty of discussion, multiple topics and reflections on whether we’re doing enough to prepare for the skills of the future. Here are a few of the themes that resonated with me during and after the event.

Change Isn’t Something New

25 years ago, the internet was not used in most offices, we didn’t have email, mobile phones were for the few and we still used faxes – the working world has changed beyond recognition and is continuing to do so.

Rather than worrying about this we need to empower the workforce to embrace and enjoy change, very few companies will be early adopters of new technologies so once they reach your desk you are probably ready for it – or, like your first smart phone, it might be a challenge initially but you’ll quickly adapt.

What will the workforce look like in 25 years’ time? Different, yes, scary – maybe a little but I am looking forward to it.

Teach Resilience Not Algebra?

Education might appear detached from working reality, and there should be more work readiness in the curriculum, but many subjects are more valuable than you might expect – studying history is a great ‘fake news’ exposing subject, you must rationalise facts to find the truth. How relevant is that today!

However more connections between education and business are essential. The more we can do to bridge the gap between education at all levels and work the better equipped our next generations will be. Specifically lessons on careers choices, building an understanding of the types of roles available and paths to follow to make informed decisions and play to strengths.

The Loss of the Careers Advice Service is a Disaster

From school leavers to mum returners to silver workers we all need advice and guidance on our careers at different times and this will only become more important as the world of work evolves.

Some resources are available, free IT courses for pensioners, digital apprentices for the unemployed. But the question remains, are these well enough signposted and are they enough to help us at those critical points in our lives? I was left thinking that we need to evaluate what does exist, ensuring that it can be found, and expanding from there.

Can Leadership be Learned?

Creating more leaders was a key topic of discussion. Firstly, the question was asked, can you teach someone to be a leader? There are many opinions for both sides of that debate and two hours wasn’t enough to get in depth with this one. And secondly, do we want to be a country of leaders?

Surely it would be better to teach emotional intelligence over leadership, which would make people better colleagues, employees and partners. To help our workforce channel out the background noise and focus on what’s important in work and life, because work and personal life seem to have a more fluid boundary these days.

Think Multi-Generationally

There is an obsession with millennials right now, I have a team of them so that’s my life, but the standard office has a wider range of ages. While it can be true that certain generations have specific characteristics, it’s lazy and generally not helpful to tar an entire generation with the same brush - great article here on that topic. What struck me from the debate was for the need for businesses to think multi-generationally about work and how we can learn and interact across different experience and age categories to help us prepare for the future of work.

Meaning, Has Many Meanings

A popular millennial focus is their perceived desire for work to be meaningful, but I think that’s true of most people I know, of all generations. We all know that we’re not going to have jobs for life, and a portfolio career which evolves – for which adaptability will be a key strength.

If a company can’t explain why your job needs to be done, then why are they hiring you to do it? And if you don’t take pride in delivering the role to the best of your ability, what was the point? We’re not all going to be an astronaut but whatever we do we can make a difference to how we work and get purpose in the future.

Wear Sunscreen

A nod to a 1990’s classic, Baz Lurhmann reminding us to not get burned, seems relevant the wonderfully sunny long weekend we’ve just had, but also makes a point of keeping everything in perspective. Rather than worry about the future, look at how to empower yourself for it – keep learning, be interested, make an impact and support those less fortunate and be adaptable.

The Brighton community care enough for a hundred of us to get into a room and talk about the future of work and skills, so I can only imagine what can we collectively do to help make our future work lives prosperous, meaningful and sustainable.

More Emerging Themes Include:

  • Digital transformation.
  • Organisations evolving around employees.
  • Social mobility to allow access to opportunities.
  • Linking of available opportunities for citizens and their ability to drive economic growth.


Created with images by Breather - "38 Rosebery Avenue, London, England" • Aaron Burden - "Writing with a fountain pen"

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