Work-Post Covid: Event Series Summary | IPT

Between January and March 2021, we hosted a series of virtual events around the topic of ‘Work Post-COVID.’ The discussions focused on improving and upskilling within the UK workforce including enhancing digital skills, supporting SMEs, and considering what the future workplace will look like. Our chairs included Seema Malhotra MP, Saqib Bhatti MP, Flick Drummond MP and Debbie Abrahams MP. We had a range of expert speakers from across industry including large organisations, trade bodies, consultancies, and universities.

Whilst each event focused on different aspects of work post-COVID-19, some key issues were repeatedly raised by throughout the series as a whole.

  • The lasting consequences of the pandemic have highlighted the skills gap that was already prevalent in the UK.
  • Adult skills training has declined by 37% since 2013 with Government funding down 39%.
  • The growing concern that many employees struggle to find qualified workers and a need for reformation of the education system to be adaptive, in partnership with employers to strengthen the UK workforce.
  • The importance of lifelong learning and consistent training throughout individuals’ careers which can enhance skill sets and provide more opportunities for both the employer and employee. It was suggested that a move from ‘paternalistic’ employer’s views on training, to embracing a more empowering and encouraging personal development journey would be more beneficial.

Since our first event of the series in January, we have seen the furlough scheme extended from the end of March up until September of this year. The furlough scheme has saved many organisations and sole traders, providing an income for many who were unable to work due to the government restrictions. During our roundtable events, attendees considered how staff on furlough could be upskilled and what systems could be implemented to link unemployed staff to organisations’ needs as businesses start to recover and reinvent their focus. In our first event of the series, demand for digital upskilling was highlighted with particular consideration for smaller businesses having limited access to digital training programmes and financial support. Apprenticeships, T-Levels, qualifications and alternative entries to the workforce were also discussed.

A further key area that was frequently mentioned throughout the series was inequality, social mobility and division. Regional inequality of skills and training was explored by attendees and the importance of providing for the most marginalised and socially excluded groups, ensuring new skills schemes are accessible to all parts of the UK. The pandemic forced many organisations to work remotely, uncovering the disparity between employees in terms of access to digital devices, connectivity issues and office space at home. Whilst some employees have benefitted from a less frequent commute and change in care/childcare duties, others have struggled without a divide between work and home life. The value to organisations to embrace hybrid working structures also frequently arose in discussion, with emphasis on leaders and managers supporting staff to ensure a mutually beneficial working environment. The typical 9-5 routine was questioned with consideration that the shift in traditional working patterns to a more flexible structure would be popular amongst many organisations and likely to stay in place as lockdown eases.

Technological breakthroughs had already started to affect the global employment landscape before the coronavirus pandemic. Artificial intelligence, smart technologies and the Internet of Things all have a large role to play in the future of work. The potential for integration between humans and technology and the opportunity of collaboration rather than substitution was examined. Throughout the series, attendees explored the importance of industry and government working together to emphasise the benefits of technology in helping people get back into work, gain skills and enter sectors likely to see a high employment rate with the intention to ‘build back better.’

Click on the links to sign up to our forthcoming events that follow some of the themes mentioned in this series:

Accessing Skilled Workers: The Future of Professional Visas

Preventing a Lost Generation: Supporting Education and Skills Development

Reinvigorating London Post-COVID

Rebalancing the UK: Regional Investment Post-COVID

The Impact of COVID on Mental Health

Kickstarting Youth Employment

Speakers from this series

John Lawson, Chief Information Officer, BAE Systems
Margot James, Executive Chair of Warwick Manufacturing Group
Chris Hulatt, Co-founder, Octopus Group
Mike Cherry OBE, National Chair, Federation of Small Businesses
Jane Cooper, Head of Stakeholder Relations and Regulatory Affairs, Ørsted
Sally Scott, Head of Talent and Capability, Skanska
Frank Desai, Commercial Head of Web, NetMatters
Leslie Benson, Senior Managing Director, Strategic Communications, FTI Consulting
Ben Harrison, Director, The Work Foundation, Lancaster University
Vicky Wallis, Chief People Officer, Direct Line Group