Ann Brown, Capgemini UK HR DirectorIn 2013, just under 150,000 vacancies – nearly one in five of the year’s job openings – went unfilled because UK employers were unable to find candidates with the right knowledge and abilities. A reported 27% of European employers have left an entry-level position open due to a lack of skilled applicants. All this is at a time when unemployment among young people is very high. The implications of this skills gap, and the challenge of closing it, provided the impetus for a recent symposium organised by City & Guilds, in partnership with New Statesman magazine.

Leading voices from industry and academia were asked to address the question: “What one thing would you do, or suggest, in order to close the skills gap by 2025?” Among those invited to the event, which took place on 1 April at the House of St Barnabas, London W1, was Ann Brown, our senior VP for HR (right). The discussion was opened by HRH the Princess Royal, president of City & Guilds, which is a vocational education organisation.
A recurring theme was the need to adapt to a changing working environment. With this goal in mind, Ann recommended reintroducing work experience for teachers. “I see teachers go to school, university and then back to school,” she said. “I’d love them to come to our organisation and work alongside apprentices and graduates, and say, ‘So this is what the world of work is like.'” She pointed out that half the people at Capgemini are working in technology areas such as big data and cloud computing, that did not exist five years ago. “It’s about lifetime skills and lifetime training. It’s not just a point-in-time exercise,” she said. She also urged a change in the way schools are evaluated, in order “to have more focus on employability“.

I spoke to our Schools Director Michelle Perkins about what commitment we can make and we have in plan a new ‘Work Exposure Programme’ aimed precisely at teachers to help them keep abreast of the latest developments working in a business like ours. She said: “I have already started to have some conversations with schools on this very topic and what we believe will be attractive to schools and teachers is to give teachers a few hours shadowing some of our senior people. Our aim is to start offering this from September 2014.”  

Other attendees of the New Statesman event included:

  • Carly Ward, founder of YES Education and The Entrepreneurial Education Group
  • Steve Holliday, chief executive of National Grid
  • Professor Dame Julia Higgins, senior research investigator in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London, and a vice-president of City & Guilds
  • Chris Jones, chief executive of City & Guilds
  • Philip Ellaway, City & Guilds’ group strategy director
  • Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA)
  • Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group of further education (FE) colleges
  • Anne-Marie Imafidon of Deutsche Bank, founder of the “Stemettes” an organisation aimed at exposing women to Stem (science, technology, engineering & mathematics).

The debate was brought to a close by Sir John Armitt, chairman of City & Guilds, who pointed out that employability is essential for an individual to become a “fully involved” citizen. “Education should be about getting people to a point where they are going to make a real contribution to society, and that must mean a closer linkage between the education system and subsequent life,” he concluded.
The full New Statesman report is available via the link.