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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Nature-Inspired Jeweller Wins Blenheim’s FAB Startup Business Award

A jeweller whose work is inspired by the natural world was announced the winner of this year’s FAB Startup Business Award at Blenheim Palace this week.
 
Shipston on Stour based Wild & Fine was among eight shortlisted businesses who pitched their Start Ups to a panel of Blenheim’s senior management and the FAB Accelerator team.
 
The winning applicant, who describes their brand as jewellery with stories to tell, was also awarded a contract to supply their work to the Oxfordshire Estate’s retail outlets.
 
In addition to the contract, Jessica Hickman-Woolcott, silversmith, jeweller and owner of Wild & Fine, and colleague Hannah Rogan will also receive ongoing tips and advice from members of the Blenheim management team.
 
“Being involved in the Blenheim Start-ups Competition 2019 has been a really inspiring experience for us,” said Jessica.
 
“It was a privilege to meet the other seven finalists and hear them speak with such passion about their brands. Wherever life takes them from here, we are confident they will all do very well and we hope to keep in touch with them in future.
 
“Both Hannah and I are very nervous public speakers and we entered the competition to challenge ourselves to get up in front of everyone and introduce the brand.
 
“We never expected to win. We were therefore extremely surprised to hear that Wild & Fine had been selected by the judges.
 
“We are so grateful for the opportunity to work with Blenheim and are especially excited about the prospect of developing bespoke designs inspired by the Palace and grounds,” she added.
 
Working in partnership with the FAB Accelerator team, the Oxfordshire estate put together its own programme designed to support locally-based firms and is now in its second year.
 
The opportunity was open to any business which is less than two years old or has fewer than five employees, is based within 20 miles of Blenheim, and can provide something which could be stocked in their shops.
 
The competition attracted more than 39 entrants of which eight went through to the final pitching process.
 
“Our decision to select Wild & Fine as our 2019 startup winner was based not only on their range of delicate jewellery, but also their passion and values, as well as the development potential of their collection to reflect the Palace’s beautiful gardens and parkland,” said Roger File, Property Director and Chief Operating Officer, Blenheim.
 
“We believe we can really make a difference to this new business, by providing support, advice and a year-long retail contract and we look forward to seeing them go from strength to strength,” he added.
 
The brainchild of Fabulous Bakin’ Boys’ founder Gary Frank, FAB was Oxford’s first accelerator programme for ambitious entrepreneurs and startups.
 
The Blenheim pitching event is a great opportunity for local Startups to show off their products. The quality of the applicants was incredibly high and testament to the thriving entrepreneurial culture in Oxfordshire. Said Gary Frank.
 
The other seven finalists were BREATHE360, A Blackbird Sang, Lou Lou Creates, Rootyfruit, Hazell & Gray, The Conscious Company and Miana Ltd creating everything from personalised canape boards to wellness products.
  
www.flamingo-marketing.co.uk

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Carter Jonas Oxford Celebrates Group Partner Promotion and APC Success

Christopher Rhodes, of national property consultancy Carter Jonas in Oxford, has been promoted to Group Partner; one of four from across the firm’s network of 33 offices.  Additionally, Cameron Hughes, also based out of the Oxford office in Summerton is celebrating exam success having passed his Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).

Both Rhodes and Hughes are members of the Carter Jonas’ Rural team. Rhodes joined the business in 2014 and focuses predominately on formal ‘Red Book’ valuations of agricultural properties and estates for a range of purposes including secured lending, taxation and matrimonial matters.

Hughes joined Carter Jonas in 2018. Following the completion of his postgraduate degree in Rural Estate Management in 2016, Hughes worked at the National Trust as an assistant rural surveyor. At Carter Jonas, he is involved with all aspects of rural estate management across a diverse range of rural land and property.

Mark Charter, Partner and Head of Carter Jonas Oxford, said: “Christopher shows exceptional leadership skills and is an exemplary member of the team. He has helped to grow our valuations business as well as develop new compliance and internal systems.

“Perhaps most importantly, he also acts as a coach and mentor to our graduate and junior surveyors. Because of this, it is extremely heartening to announce his promotion alongside Cameron passing his APC.

“As a business, we place a great deal of importance in our people and on ensuring their success at every stage of their careers. I extend my warmest congratulations to them both and thank them for all of their hard work.”

Carter Jonas

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Intellectual Property Office invests in new support role for Oxfordshire businesses

Intellectual Property Office invests in new support role for Oxfordshire businesses

• The Intellectual Property Office has partnered with Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership to create new business support job role – application window now open

• The IPO Regional Policy Officer will provide expertise to help businesses achieve maximum value from their intellectual property
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is to invest in an IPO Regional Policy Officer for Oxfordshire.

Applications are now being invited for the new role, which will see the successful candidate work with businesses in the Oxfordshire region to help them achieve the best value from their intellectual property (IP). The role has been developed in partnership with Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) where the role will be based.

Tim Moss of The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) said: “This is a very exciting step in the IPO’s plan to develop intellectual property knowledge at a local level, building on the great work that Oxford LEP is already doing.

“The IPO has piloted Regional Policy Officer roles elsewhere in the UK with really positive results. With effective support, businesses are able to maximise on the value of their IP assets, benefiting both them and the UK’s economic growth.”

Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of Oxfordshire LEP, said: “We are delighted to be hosting the new IPO Regional Policy Officer. When appointed, they will be working closely with OxLEP to ensure that IP is integrated into business and innovation support programmes across the region.”

Full details of the role and how to apply are available on the Civil Service Jobs website.

The closing date for applications is 24 June 2019. For more information please email: adminvacancies@ipo.gov.uk.

OxLEP

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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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James Cowper Kreston assist in Oxford International College acquisition by Oxford International Education Group

James Cowper Kreston assist in Oxford International College acquisition by Oxford International Education Group

James Cowper Kreston are pleased to announce the successful acquisition of Oxford International College by Oxford International Education Group (OIEG), the private education provider backed by Bowmark Capital. The corporate finance team provided transaction support services to OIEG as part of this transaction.

Oxford International Education Group have an extensive portfolio of schools with an international range. The addition of Oxford International College, the third Oxford College now owned by the group gives both parents and students more options to suit their specific educational needs, whether based domestically or overseas.

The corporate finance team at James Cowper Kreston provided transaction support services to OIEG to assist the financing and acquisition decision. The team worked closely with OIEG and Bowmark Capital throughout the transaction process.

Brad McAvoy, Corporate Finance Director at James Cowper Kreston said: “This is the first time we have worked with OIEG and Bowmark Capital and we were pleased to be involved in their growth strategy. Our work provided insight to OIEG as to how Oxford International College would function financially alongside the existing OIEG colleges. We are thrilled the acquisition was a success and hope to work with OIEG again in the future.”

www.jamescowperkreston.co.uk

James Cowper Kreston

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Richard Kennell | Your Voice

Richard Kennell, CEO and Founder of SOFEA, tells Oxfordshire voice about his Educational Training Charity ‘SOFEA’ and about its roll, redistributing surplus food from supermarkets to charities, so they can reduce their running costs and also young people can get training through working for SOFEA, enabling them to change their prospects after school.

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Don’t let the Treasury run the levy dry

The latest OV forum has highlighted a range of concerns over the way the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy is in danger of turning a force for good into a bad idea.

Oxfordshire Voice partners are calling on the Government to rethink its Apprenticeship Levy.

The Levy was set up in 2017. It requires businesses with payroll in excess of £3m to pay a 0.5% levy to the government. The money collected can then be used across the country by firms to fund apprenticeship schemes.

Companies can apply for the money through a government website by clicking this link: https://accounts.manage-apprenticeships.service.gov.uk/service/index

There is also more information on the Gov.uk website here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-levy/apprenticeship-levy

Results of a recent survey by Oxford Brookes University and Oxfordshire Voice and a follow-up forum held at Brookes in April has highlighted concerns over the way the levy is being operated.

The forum found that whilst the levy is a good idea, it is being squandered by a lack of coherent information. This confusion and lack of awareness mean many firms are not taking advantage of the fund.

The survey found that four out of every five Oxfordshire businesses (80%) were unlikely to spend their full entitlement from the levy on apprentices this year.

The real concern here is the way the Treasury, which holds the collected levy funds, can claw back the money over time if it goes unused. This has led to accusations that the schemes is – for the most part – no more than a stealth tax on business.

A number of businesses at the forum also raised concerns over the involvement of Ofsted – the Government regulator for standards in education – which they believe has too dominant and constricting a role in the way apprenticeship schemes are managed.

The OV forum voted to adopt a range of outcomes to highlight and better exploit the advantages of the Apprenticeship levy. It also made a number of recommendations – based on the experiences of companies using the scheme:

• The existing Apprenticeship Levy Policy needs longer to be embedded, adopted and understood by the market.
• The levy needs to be run with ‘local’ rules of engagement rather than national as different regions have different apprenticeship requirements
• More government funding is needed to better promote awareness of apprenticeships and the types of apprenticeships available
• Separate and more flexible funding for shorter course apprenticeships, or those that don’t quite fit the existing outlines. I.e. More flexibility on what funding can be used for (e.g. life/social skills). I
• Is it absolutely necessary to have an English & Maths requirement at the current level? This can exclude a great number of people of all aged and experience who could otherwise benefit from an apprenticeship
• There should be more opportunity to ‘showcase’ examples of best practice in apprenticeship engagement. e.g. Blenheim.
• Using apprenticeships as an option for re-skilling and up-skilling.
• New name for apprenticeships – Change the mind-set of what an apprenticeship is.
• Encourage schools to promote apprenticeships to the same degree as higher education.
• How can we use the circa £4m fund locally and retain/manage locally?
• Look at the inspection factor – OFSTED. Or give it to another organisation. We should challenge OFSTED on the criteria it uses. Investigate whether OFSTED is the appropriate inspector to oversee the Apprenticeship Levy.
• Aim for a system that stays ahead of the curve. Equip people with the skills to adapt to future changes (watch “Shift Happens”).
• Wellbeing awareness in the workplace.

What do you think about the levy?

Is it a force for real business growth and worth expanding?

How is it affecting your business?

Join in the conversation in the comments below.

Forum Panelists:

• Edward Collett, Head of Business Development & Marketing at Abingdon & Witney College
• Sarah Cullimore, Head of UK Partnerships and Apprenticeships at Oxford Brookes University
• Richard Byard, Director of Business Development at Oxfordshire LEP
• Phil Southall, Managing Director at Oxford Bus Company
• Tom J Pearce, Assistant Manager of Talent Solutions and Growth Services at Grant Thornton
• Megan Cater, HR Manager at Blenheim Palace

Forum Host:
Chris Blackburn, Pro Vice-Chancellor & Dean of Oxford Brookes University

View photos from the forum here

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Oxfordshire Voice Skills

FORUM 2: Why is it so difficult for us to recruit the best workforce?

Forum date & Venue

Thursday 15th November 2018
Pembroke College, Oxford, St. Aldates, Oxfordshire OX1 1DW

The forum on the future of work in Oxfordshire had a broader cross section of attendees then our first forum. We also decided to run an open debate without a panel and one invigilator. It was encouraging to see members of county and city councils in the audience as well as a range of employers, employees and recruitment agencies.

Agencies came in for some criticism in a number of areas. Some were accused of recruiting new staff for companies and then attempting to lure those same employees to different companies just a year later. This was only based on anecdotal evidence and there was no suggestion that any of the agencies represented at the forum had engaged in this practice.

The forum agreed that although there were many exciting and attractive jobs available in Oxfordshire the county was guilty of not promoting the advantages of living and working here enough.

The forum was also the first one to make the point that the three main goals of OV (housing, employment, transport) are all inextricably linked. Again, there may be great jobs available in Oxfordshire but with an inadequate transport infrastructure and lack of affordable or appropriate housing – you won’t attract the right workforce.

It is worth noting during all the forums and at the launch of OV at the Blavatnik School of Government we recorded and videoed feedback from many partners.

Simon Howson-Green, Oxfordshire Voice

We welcome your comments and views. Get involved today!

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