OV Forum: Higher Education and the Workplace

Said Business School, 25th July 2019

The Workplace as a “lifelong learning environment” – for students, employees and business leaders

The Oxfordshire Voice Forum at the Said Business School clearly demonstrated how the OV Forum is continuing to develop into an initiative that is enabling delegates to participate in robust discussions, share ideas, promote existing projects and propose new projects to support or enhance existing programmes to be more effective.

In the aptly named Margaret Thatcher building at the SBS (apt because Margaret Thatcher was the Education Secretary before becoming PM) the Forum benefitted from excellent speakers and a very interactive audience which has certainly become another hallmark of OV Forums to date.

One of the many positive outcomes from this engaging and challenging forum (see many more outcomes below!) was that the OV Forum itself is becoming the most effective of platforms in enabling us all to share ideas and knowledge. The OV Forum also creates awareness of so much of the good work already happening across the county. Creating awareness and helping our understanding of the challenges and potential solutions possible is a crucial element – but the OV Forum goes further by communicating key outcomes to all our networks and empowering us all to play a role in facing those challenges – by working together across sectors to develop and deliver better solutions.

Our 3 panellists provided some insights

Peter Reynolds, Activate Learning
Peter outlined some of the challenges that exist for students and for developing the support systems they require. There are broadly two groups of students. Those who are well prepared and connected by their parents, and those who are very much unsupported and without many of the connections that can help them integrate or take advantage of opportunities. The less supported students are those which face the greatest challenges and the students in need of the most support.

John Kirwan, Oxford Brookes University
John spoke of the need to equip students with skills for the real world, not just the academic skills that enable them to succeed in their studies. Personal self-awareness, personal literacy, playing an active role in their community. We almost need an audit to identify the deficits in the skills we are currently providing to our students.

Stephen Clarke, Cherwell College
Stephen outlined the need to help students understand that at some point they are going to be seeing employment and that those skills are also required. A pure focus on the academic skills and training required to attain a University place is no longer enough. We need to focus on the wider skills it takes to gain employment.

What are the some of the key issues in the relationship between students and the workplace?

The OV Survey highlighted some areas that employers and the business community feel need to be addressed by those teaching and training students. This was a lively and interesting discussion with contributions from the delegates which certainly demonstrated that there are wide ranging issues but also that there are very different views from business. Some views and opinions are negative but others are positive about the expertise and potential of the next generation.

It is also interesting to note that many of the behaviours that employers deem negative are not necessarily to do with age or training – or indeed the responsibility of our academic institutions!

Overall the forum demonstrated effectively that integration and understanding of what may be required for a vibrant and dynamic future workforce is not solely the responsibility of the education system. Combining the thinking of both the business community and the education sector has already been effective in some key initiatives.

Key elements of the discussion

Lack of understanding of appropriate behaviour is seen as a core issue, and that carries through to potentially causing inappropriate behaviours in the workplace.

The “dress code” issue is more about “reading the culture” which is more of a transferable / life skill than a specifically workplace related issue. One delegate did mention that he was happy for any “high performing” colleague to wear any uniform whatsoever as long as they were delivering value! A mankini was mentioned but the chairman assumed this to be a hypothetical scenario…?

We all need to talk more openly about the difficult topics such as abuse in families / schools / workplaces which is exacerbating the problem. There needs to be better education about healthy behaviours and relationships from a young age. See LIFESEXPERTS under Further Reading below.

Is the issue more “adaptability” and “common sense”, more “will” than “skill”? Teach someone how to think on their feet and they can achieve anything.

Employers need to be more involved in the curriculum to make sure the training remains a good fit. Engagement between schools and employers is key. This is a core outcome and more ongoing and active engagement will ensure we are combining our thinking more effectively.

Where did “lifelong learning” go?

Why can’t employers afford to train employees as much as they used to? Training used to be sponsored by the government, but that has stopped.

The role of education

Re-think the “careers advice” services at schools. Focus on transferable skills, because not all careers are forever.

What about online solutions for careers advice / training, like an app. That way we can teach young people in a way that is more “normal” to them?

What would a package of “50 skills for any workplace” look like?

Invite inspirational speakers to schools.

All of this encouragement, engagement and training needs to start at a much younger age, at least by 10 years of age.
Activate Learning applies dress codes to their students based on what they are studying, so that they are aware of what is appropriate for that field.

Should schools offer more frequent work placements, rather than 1 per year? Give them options to try other routes, as it’s hard for any student to know what career is right for them.

Oxford Brookes University’s “employability training” teaches key workplace skills.

Vocational qualifications also involve workplace skills, but not every career path has an associated vocational course. If vocational courses offer these basic workplace skills, why don’t standard A-Levels also? They’re still aiming to land students a job at the end of the day.

Should “know your client” training be a part of courses? I.e. look at the career you’re after and see who their usual market is and get to know it. A potential employee who’s knowledgeable in the employer’s target market is going to be much more desirable.

Look at the terminology we use – On-boarding vs. Induction, Work Experience, Apprenticeship, Career etc. – Are they all still appropriate and understandable to the younger generation, and to employers?

Apprenticeships are inaccessible to smaller businesses due to the required time investment. Is there another option?

Don’t negate the role parenting plays. Is there a way we can educate new parents in order to give their child the best chance they can?

The role of business

Is induction / the training provided by the employer the key issue? Maybe employers aren’t offering adequate training periods for students / new starters. Lack of understanding is in part the employer’s responsibility. Education continues at the work place – You don’t arrive at a new job with every single skill you need. Businesses need to take more responsibility for the skills, or lack thereof, of their employees.

Get involved in Activate Learning’s upcoming T-Levels: https://www.activatelearning.ac.uk/study/what-to-study/t-levels-technical-education – By partnering with Activate Learning on quality, co-created industry placements, you will have direct input into a talent pipeline that meets your future recruitment requirements.

Be realistic with your expectations of young / new starters. Current students are growing up in a completely different world than employers. The older generation should try to adapt to them, rather than the other way around, so as not to be left behind. Children these days are very intelligent. You might think they’re non-communicative, but in reality they are probably holding 5 conversations at once in the palm of their hand.

Are businesses too inflexible? Let young people loose to come up with ideas and celebrate their value. We should be learning from them, not talking down to them. A lot of kids nowadays are feeling depressed about the future – How can we try to help them feel more optimistic?

Encourage bringing your kids to work with you.

Invite students to OV Forums to get them more involved in the business community.

Help shape the curriculum and learn more about how to prepare for work experience placements by getting in touch with Sally Andreou of OxLEP Skills at sally.andreou@oxfordshirelep.com or call 0345 241 1196.

Find new starters and get involved by contacting careers@brookes.ac.uk.

Outcomes

Learn from young starters, rather than trying to bend them to the “old ways”.
Better induction / training for new starters – Their performance is in part the employer’s responsibility.
Teach children from an early age adaptability, healthy / appropriate behaviours and relationships.
Plan work experience programs better to make it worthwhile for the student.
Get involved in shaping the curriculum for your business sector.
Careers services at school should teach more transferable skills, as the “career for life” no longer exists.

Further Reading

The Oxford Inclusive Recruitment Charter
Stats and Impact of Abuse in Society
T-Levels at Activate Learning
Oxford Brookes University
UK Partnerships and Apprenticeships team
Careers in the Curriculum at Brookes
Wellbeing issues

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OV Transport Forum discusses a “route map” for the future of Oxfordshire.

Pembroke College, Oxford – May 2019

The partners, panellists (Phil Southall of Oxford Bus Company and Bob Price, Honorary Alderman of Oxford City Council) and delegates at the Oxfordshire Voice Transport Forum discussed the need for a visionary, sustainable and deliverable transport plan to overcome the challenges Oxfordshire faces as a county – both in the short term in 2019 and into the longer term future. Ensuring the Oxfordshire transport strategy enables and empowers development for the economy and our community as a whole is a key underlying determinant for future success.

Feedback from the business community and Oxfordshire Voice partners

In 2019 only 5% of the businesses in Oxfordshire have a clear understanding of what is planned and which bodies are responsible for delivering infrastructural change in Oxfordshire. The strategic imperative to build a coherent vision for the short term as well as longer term challenges was a core outcome from the forum. Encouraging engagement and collaboration in a more comprehensive manner is essential to map out the future but also to address key short-term issues hampering development and causing issues now. The survey was enlightening in many respects and demonstrated that greater engagement between the planning bodies, their initiatives and the business community could create powerful collaborative projects for the evolution of transport and accessibility in Oxfordshire.

The shorter term challenges

Congestion in Oxford, surrounding towns and on key road networks is a major issue limiting productivity, accessibility and causing pollution at local levels. Interesting feedback included support for quite radical policy changes to limit congestion and reduce congestion.

– 67% of businesses supported the idea of non-peak delivery times to central locations.
– 60% supported expansion of Park and Rides.
– 58% supported staggering school start and finish times.
– 69% businesses did not support the idea of congestion charging.
– Only 12% of business regarded technological innovation as a short-term solution to transport issues.

A collaborative and engaged approach

It is not just Oxford which is struggling! Oxfordshire has vibrant towns blighted by transport issues and a dispersed population struggling to access work, services and facilities.

An integrated route map for the future of transport could help identify more urgent areas and help the community to feel more involved in the outcomes. The road map must be a collaborative project engaging and empowering community involvement through stimulating positive contributions and a better understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the options and solutions.

Mass Transit – a compelling vision of sustainable transport

Public Transport and Cycling need to be prioritised. To make these options more attractive we must ensure certainty of journey time for public transport and increase safety and prioritise road space for cyclists. Public transport operators and cycling/walking groups can work more closely with the County Council as the transport authority in prioritising funding (linked to OXiS priorities).

Local Transport Plan 4 and the JSSP (Oxfordshire Plan 2050)

Oxfordshire County Council’s Local Transport Plan 4 (LTP4) can be read online here with a refresh commencing later this year.

As part of the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal agreement with the Government, the six Oxfordshire authorities – Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council and West Oxfordshire District Council – have committed to producing a joint statutory spatial plan (JSSP), known as the Oxfordshire Plan 2050.

The Oxfordshire Plan will provide an integrated strategic planning framework and evidence base to support sustainable growth across the county to 2050, including the planned delivery of new homes and economic development, and the anticipated supporting infrastructure needed.

As part of the formation of the plan, the authorities are committed to ensuring there will be early, proportionate and meaningful engagement between plan makers and communities, local organisations, businesses, infrastructure providers and statutory bodies.

The Oxfordshire Plan 2050 will be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for independent examination by 31 March 2020 and adopted by 31 March 2021, subject to the examination process.

You can see details of current Oxfordshire Plan 2050 consultations here

Engagement

Engaging, communicating and encouraging direct feedback from the business and wider communities so that projects are both understood in the broader framework of infrastructural and housing development in the longer term.

Specific interventions

Options for a free Park and Ride system and possible integration with an electric bike scheme. Engaging and attracting support for this from the commuter community could be a priority.

Climate emergency and millennial public opinion

Investigating how additional charging points for vehicles might be created and how a Zero Emission Zone might be funded.

School traffic is a huge contributor to congestion. Can the County Council look at a ‘total transport’ project to see how provision for school transport might be consolidated and funded effectively?

Freight consolidation. The logistics of managing freight to key manufacturers needs to be studied in detail for any changes not to have a detrimental impact.

To play a role in the future success of the development of Oxfordshire become and Oxfordshire Voice partner today. Visit www.oxvoice.co.uk.

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BIO puts Oxfordshire at the centre of the business stage

Oxfordshire is poised to consolidate and strengthen its place at the heart of business in Britain – Brexit or No Brexit.

That’s the message from this year’s BIO, Oxfordshire’s largest business networking and showcase event, which takes place on 6th June.

BIO – which stands for Business in Oxford – is now in its sixth year and promises to be bigger, wider ranging and more important to the future of business in the county than ever before.

The organisers are expecting over seven hundred delegates with a vested interest in the success of business in the county to attend this year. The majority of attendees are business owners, managers and executives. There will be more than 70 exhibitors and a host of specialist speakers.

“Whatever the outcome of Brexit one of the major themes of BIO 2019 is to ensure this county is protected, prepared and proactive,” says organiser Richard Rosser.

“There is a real movement towards businesses looking at ways to work locally in the shadow of Brexit confusion and uncertainty.”

BIO2019 is being held at MINI Plant at Cowley, Oxford – an appropriate backdrop to highlight the need for continuity in business this year.

On top of the ‘B’ word and its effect on business success, BIO2019 is focusing on some of the major issues the county faces in a number of focus groups, workshop sessions and keynote speeches.

This year’s event is divided into three themes: Inspire, Discover and Learn.

BIO2019 is covering topics including the impact of climate change on businesses in the county and how they can action and understand its effects.

BIO2019 has also invited speakers from the B Corp movement which is encouraging companies to develop business strategies which are a ‘Force for Good.’ Other topics on the agenda include wellbeing in the workplace; a range of initiatives to strengthen cyber security and how to embrace and exploit the digital marketing landscape.

The event is also an opportunity for Oxfordshire Voice  – which brings businesses and local authorities together to help business thrive – to canvas opinion on the major issues facing businesses in the county and identify workable ways to address them. The opening session will feature Oxford City Council Leader, Susan Brown, Oxfordshire LEP Chief Executive, Nigel Tipple, County Councillor Ian Corkin and Harwell Science and Innovation Campus Director, Angus Horner. This drive is complemented by the range of speakers in the Discover sessions who will be discussing the skills shortages in the county, ways to solve the shortfall in housing for a much-needed workforce and the ongoing problems around the transport infrastructure across the county – and especially in Oxford itself.

Another key theme running through BIO2019 is the platform being given to the all-important future generations, those that will really benefit from the work Oxfordshire Voice and other excellent organisations are doing to create a better future for all of us in Oxfordshire. The closing session at BIO2019 will be in association with NXT focused on apprentices, young professionals and creatives who are already showing that the next generation are not only passionate about what they do but should also be listened to when making the key decisions for Oxfordshire.

BIO2019 is a real opportunity to discuss and listen to views on what the future holds….make sure you are there on 6th June by securing a ticket here

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