Neil Morrison, group HR director, UK and international companies, Penguin Random House:
"The biggest concern for me is the interface between education and employment. And that’s why I’d like to see education policy placed in the hands of the experts. There has to be a way we can create an independent body of education and employment professionals who can set policy and be overseen by the all-party House of Commons Education Select Committee.
We need to take a longer-term view on education policy and provide stability for schools and colleges to help them develop the young people that will become our future labour force. The current approach of rhetoric over results is damaging to the UK economy and to rectify this we need to steer a consistent course that lasts longer than one parliamentary cycle.
Education is the key to a successful and dynamic economy. Our failure to approach it in a longer-term, strategic way and instead using it for political grandstanding does little to improve our global competitiveness. The connections between education and employment are plain to see, and the current gaps represent a clear danger. We might not get it right overnight, but if we could put this in place now it should and will help future generations to prosper in an increasingly competitive global market."
Joti Chana, head of HR, Fairtrade Foundation:
"More money needs to be spent on good, one-to-one career advice. Too many people are leaving education without any understanding of what they want to do or what skills they need. This is something that we are seeing more of when we have young people wanting to volunteer with us. I’d also like to see some form of incentive or financial support, or the establishment of a new programme, for non-profit SMEs to be able to take on interns on a living wage. This would get more young people into work and would help recruit interns from underrepresented groups, supporting diversity. And I’d like more flexibility for employers when hiring non-EU workers.
We also need continued progress of the national minimum wage towards the thresholds for the living wage. Living wage levels should be the norm adopted by all government agencies and public services. More guidance on the use of zero-hour contracts would be good, but I’d like to see more done to abolish inappropriate use.
The most vulnerable workers in Britain need more protection.The Modern Slavery Bill is going through parliament now and the Lords recently passed an amendment to overturn this Government’s changes to domestic workers’ visa regulations. These regulations make domestic workers more vulnerable to forced labour, exploitation and modern slavery, and yet the Government threw out the Lords’ amendment."
Katie Pearce, head of HR and facilities, UK&I, Molson Coors:
"Apprenticeships are really important to us as an organisation. But the area needs more investment from the Government around what an apprenticeship actually means. The traditional days of it being a young person just out of education are gone. How do we support people who have gone out of the workforce and come back in? We’ve recently partnered with a number of organisations who look after ex-service personnel. Coming out of the armed forces, they need support to use the base skills they’ve acquired in the services in business. We’ve hired a number as technical engineers and are retraining them.
We need to change what people visualise when they think about apprenticeships. There are lots of individuals that need the opportunity, not just young people.
I would like to see the Government support organisations more around skills redeployment and redevelopment. It’s easier for an organisation our size, but how do smaller organisations get the help they need to take on someone? And while we are not a small employer, we still have to think about the cost. There is a need to look at modernising policy around apprenticeships and supporting employers, large and small, to take on more apprentices – and a need to think more carefully about redeploying skills and re-skilling people."
Victoria Perkins, VP HR UK&I, Schneider Electric:
"I would like to see some tax relief on flexible working policies – so that a parent can pay for childcare at the source – before paying tax and NI. This would encourage more women back into the workplace after they’ve had children. You constantly hear that the cost of childcare prohibits women from returning to work.
Nursery vouchers are tax efficient but they are quite inflexible, I’d like to see the options opened up for employees. For employers, tax relief would encourage them to be flexible – things like not having fixed hours but working hours; having a number of hours that can be worked in a variety of ways. Employers tend to be inflexible in their approach; tax relief would spur them to be more innovative.
Secondly, I’d call for targets to ensure that females are encouraged and supported into STEM subjects at university. For one of our recent graduate recruitment programmes in engineering, only 20% of the applicants were women. There needs to be government funding around this, whether offering grants for female students studying STEM subjects or to encourage girls at a younger age to consider STEM – apparently girls as young as six are making unconscious decisions not to go into STEM subjects. The Government needs to address this."
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