Have we ever seen such phenomenal transformations in our workplace - and all at once - as in 2023? The Kingston Chamber of Commerce Future of Work Summit at Kingston University Campus chimed a crucial chord on June 16th.
An unpredictable recipe of global, economic, and technological mixers created this signature commercial cocktail. Post-pandemic virtual home-working practices using the latest tech has become a new way of working and in a record full employment context, now 1m more than pre-covid levels, employees have the balance of power. Graduates and young people prioritise values and culture, mental health, and work/life balance, often above even pay and conditions. With over a million vacancies today, many businesses are exploring how to make their culture more attractive to recruit and retain staff without trading productivity, while keeping a close eye on the seismic arrival of AI and its transformative potential. KCoC Board Members, CE Forbes Low, VP Chris Hirsch and Dr Martha Mador put these exhilarating and urgent questions to Kingston business and education panellists and a Hackathon audience, for dynamic teamwork solutions.
While recruitment in today’s nationally record high employment environment is competitive, anyone who remembers graduating in a recession with record unemployment will see it as a bonus for Kingston residents’ general standard of living. Here in Kingston, we have a 98.4% employment rate with average salaries of an impressive £39,843 and we have one of the most academically educated working age populations in the country. (Source https://www.varbes.com/economy/kingston-upon-thames-economy)
Companies looking to fill their vacancies are looking further afield and especially at attracting older workers back to work. One in three people in 2023 of working age are over 50 and over 3 million 50 to 65s quit the workforce after covid. Jeremy Hunt recently increased the pension pot tax allowance in the spring budget to entice surgeons in the NHS and senior management ‘back off the golf course!’ Another significant group are women who take on a disproportionate amount of unpaid care work in Britain: career-break mothers and carers with tapering caring responsibilities, looking to balance the ‘Housewife Penalty’, their pension expectations, subsidise childcare or reboot their professional status. Divorced or bereaved women from all backgrounds can be less secure financially or pension-wise and keen to get back into the workplace and boost their independence.
With this group in mind, last October I submitted a policy proposal to the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) designed at offering ‘Returnerships’, a second internship to build new skills and confidence among older people looking to restart their career later in life. I was thrilled to see the government have developed the concept brilliantly with several business partners with their ‘Returnership Toolkit’.
A ‘Returnership’ is a fixed-term contract with an employer, usually 3-6 months and competitively paid. There is a strong likelihood of a permanent role at the end if it goes well for both returner and employer. Support, such as coaching, mentoring and training, is usually provided for the placement period.
There’s never been a better time to be a Returner. More companies are investing in Returner programmes, and more employers are waking up to the value of Returners’ skills, experience, and maturity.
Many of the Returner programmes target high demand sectors such as social work, health, tech and construction. Many programmes address flexible working to tackle barriers for Returners with continuing caring commitments. In pilots run by partner “Timewise’, (https://timewise.co.uk/social-impact/) Returners reported benefits in health and wellbeing, decreased stress, and an uplift in productivity.
Partner ‘Women Returners’ (https://womenreturners.com) has partnered on Returner programmes with over 150 private and public sector employers in the last 5 years, showcasing many inspiring role models, https://womenreturners.com/returners/success-stories/
If you are interested in finding Returnership availability look no further than the government skills bootcamp with brilliant firms like Black Rock, AWS, and more. New skills training includes cloud tech, data analytics and engineering, cyber security, digital marketing, project management – and much of it conveniently online.
Got a Returnership story to tell? Any Future of Work policy idea you would like to submit? Interested in getting into politics? Let me know firstname.lastname@example.org
Conservative Spokesperson for Kingston and Surbiton