Matthew Taylor: All jobs should become 'learning jobs'

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A panel at the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) Progression in Employment conference discussed the challenges facing people in low-skilled and low-paid employment

Chief executive of The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Matthew Taylor called for every job in the UK to become a "learning job".

Speaking on a panel at the IES Progression in Employment conference, Taylor said the people in the bottom 30% to 40% of jobs have no way of recording their performance.

“The world of training and skills is a bit of a walled garden. We need to have a goal that ordinary people can relate to, and that goal is to make every job a learning job," he said. “This is something that should be made on economic grounds, social grounds and ethical grounds in terms of what we think good citizenship involves.”

A learning job is where an employee can continue to develop their skills throughout the role, he explained.

Also speaking on the panel, Anna Ambrose, director of the London Progression Collaboration, spoke of the difficulties employees in low-skilled work face when trying to progress through the job market.

“If you enter the workforce in low-paid and low-skilled work it is hard to progress into high-skilled and high-paid [work]," she said. "Just one in six escaped in the last decade. Low-paid work doesn’t lead to an acceptable standard of living.”

Tony Wilson, director of the IES, agreed, citing statistics that 50% of people in poverty in London are from working households.

Ambrose added: “It can be tempting to focus conversations around those at the younger end of the job market, but 80% of those earning below living wage are over 25. We have to make skills progression activity available to everyone across their working lives.”

Topical issues such as the use of AI and automation in the workplace were also discussed by the panel, with the CIPD’s research advisor for organisational behaviour Jonny Gifford citing the prevalence of automation in the workplace as a key predictor of how skilled an employee's role is.

“We know automation will affect different types of jobs but we’re not sure if this will be positive or negative. Jobs could be upskilled by having tasks automated that are routine, freeing you up to do more value-added work," he said.

"There’s opportunities as well as risks but it all needs to be managed, and any kind of tech strategy needs to be developed, implemented [and] closely aligned to a well-developed people strategy.

“The way in which we manage people day to day has an impact on how they can develop their jobs and develop as individuals.”

The IES launched its two-year research study at the event, which has been supported by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation's New Skills at Work programme.

The study includes an employer toolkit and case study collection. It aims to help employers support the progression of low-skilled workers in their organisations.

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