How do we prepare young people for a future world of work that we struggle to predict?

Studies show that the future of the UK labour market will be increasingly competitive and subject to emerging technological and environmental changes. Katy Hampshire (Director of Operations and Programmes) and Chris Percy (Careers research adviser) from Education and Employers presented to the British Council’s Policy Dialogue at the Education World Forum why employer engagement in education should be at the centre of preparing young people for the future world of work.

Download the presentation slides here.

How do we prepare young people for a future world of work that we struggle to predict?

There is no shortage of studies predicting the changes and trends in the future of the UK labour market. Recent research from Nesta and Pearson predicts that environmental sustainability, demographic change, political uncertainty, increasing inequality, technological change, globalisation and urbanisation will be the main drivers of labour market demand and skill shortages in the year 2030 (2017). While we are still unsure as to what workforce skills will be most in-demand, which occupations automation will make redundant and whether economic growth will plateau or decline in the next few decades, we can be certain that education systems must be responsive to growing trends to ensure our young people are prepared to enter a world of work we cannot yet fully predict.

On Thursday 24th January 2019 at the Education World Forum held in London, Katy Hampshire and Chris Percy presented several key thoughts as to how we can guide young people to the jobs of the future.

Thought one: More balanced investment in lifelong learning.

A recent report published in September 2018 by the ‘Commission on Sustainably Learning for Life, Work and a Changing Economy’ (2018) argued that training should be viewed as much more than just an entry requirement. Participation in formal learning declines with age and adult learning is disproportionately taken up by wealthier and more highly skilled individuals. If the UK economy is to take advantage of emerging technological trends, more investment is needed in the education of our adult population.

Thought two: More focus on skills attitude and preparation, rather than rote learning.

Employers are placing more emphasis on transferable skills than qualifications. Our recent report Joint Dialogue: How are school developing real employability skills (2018), identified eight employability skills and four competencies’ most frequently cited across 21 studies with employers. While teachers continue to do their best to develop employability skills curriculum and qualification reform, the dialogue between employers and schools on the specificity of skills and competencies must continue and deepen.

Thought three: Connect young people directly to world of work – don’t try to micromanage.

We know that statically there is “nothing in common” between the career aspirations of young people and labour market demand (2013). Connecting young people with employers and volunteers from the world of work is the best solution in preparing young people for an increasingly competitive and changing jobs market. As the ‘Department for Education’s’ Careers Strategy sets out, we need employers of all sizes and from all sectors to inspire young people and give them the opportunity to learn about what it takes to be successful in the workforce (2017).


How do we prepare young people for a future world of work that we struggle to predict?