Six key questions for the future of employment

The country is facing a number of employment and skills challenges that go beyond Brexit, writes Fiona Aldridge

How can we change the future of employment for the better?

In just a few weeks’ time, we will know for certain which of the two candidates in the Tory leadership contest will become the UK’s next prime minister. And while Brexit will understandably be the new PM’s number one priority, he will soon have to turn his attention to wider challenges in order to "build a country that works for everyone".

This year, the Learning and Work Institute’s annual Employment and Skills Convention on 10 July – for which Tes is the media partner – seeks to look beyond Brexit, to the crucial employment and skills challenges that we face now and in the future.


More on this: 'Teachers want fair pay, not Boris Johnson's "love"'

Other news: Johnson promises more schools funding from 'day 1'

Background: Why education must be the chancellor's top priority


The six questions we want to ask are:

1. Where next for Universal Credit? 

The government’s flagship reform of the welfare system has been beset both by delays and growing concerns over its impact. Where should we go from here and how can we build a flexible safety net that meets people’s needs and supports those who can to work?

2. How can we build a technical education system that is fit for the future? 

The government’s target of 3 million apprenticeship starts is clearly out of reach. With concern over value for money and an ongoing review of the levy, what is the future for the apprenticeship programme? The first T levels are due for delivery from September 2020, so how we can build a world-class system that helps all young people to reach their potential?

3. How do we support in-work progression? 

One in four workers earns below the real living wage, stuck in low pay and unable to make ends meet. How do we help low-paid and low-skilled workers to move on and move up?

4. How do we promote lifelong learning for all? 

Lifelong learning is more important than ever. Rapidly advancing technology will transform the world of work in the coming years, bringing both huge opportunities and profound challenges. Yet, 9 million adults lack basic literacy or numeracy, and it is these adults who are least likely to have an employer willing to invest in their skills. How do we reverse the decline in adult learning over recent years, and what should the proposed National Retraining Scheme do to help people adapt and thrive?

5. What is the future for devolution? 

After some positive steps towards devolution around employment and skills, what should the next step be? And what powers and levers do local areas need in order to build inclusive economies?

6. How do we close the disability employment gap? 

Employment stands at a record high and unemployment is at its lowest in nearly 20 years – yet, just half of those with disabilities or long-term health or mental health conditions are in work. What else should government do to deliver on its target of helping 1 million disabled people into work?

We are delighted to bring together a wide range of leading experts and policymakers across learning, skills and employment to shape the debate. And of course, good policy is only part of the story – we need effective provision, too. I’m therefore particularly excited that we're launching a What Works Unit for Learning and Work to provide robust evidence on what works in commissioning and delivering excellent employment and skills services. We look forward to working with you all on this. You can follow our discussion and join in at #EmploymentSkills19.

Fiona Aldridge is director for policy and research at the Learning and Work Institute

Tes is the media partner at the Employment and Skills Convention 2019.

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