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Form the Future conference 2023: How to prepare people for a rapidly changing world

Anne Bailey, CEO and co-founder of Form the Future, writes for the Cambridge Independent, which is supporting Form the Future’s annual conference on December 1.

I recently returned from the Labour Party conference where my Form the Future colleagues and I talked to councillors, MPs, shadow ministers and lots of employers from all over the country about talent and skills.

A previous Form the Future annual conference. Picture: Richard Marsham
A previous Form the Future annual conference. Picture: Richard Marsham

Everyone we talked to agreed that we need to do more to prepare young people for their future careers. One employer in the renewables sector pleaded with me to encourage everyone we worked with to become an engineer. The need for skilled employees to help us reach net zero is that great.

It’s not only the push to net zero that’s driving demand for skills. Employers across multiple industries are struggling to recruit, often paying extra for agency workers. We need to ensure that young people – and their teachers and parents – understand what skills are needed and where the job opportunities are now and into the future.

There are other factors that are changing the way we work. The explosion of AI and the advance of digital technologies are changing the way we work now and will change how we work in the future. Educators are wrestling with the use of AI in education, but we can’t ignore what a powerful tool it can be. Learning to use it well is essential.

The places and spaces where we work are changing, too, with the continued popularity of remote and hybrid working. What will this mean for how younger workers learn and advance if they don’t have role models sitting alongside them?

Cambridge, with its dubious distinction of being the most unequal city in the UK, needs to ensure that growth includes opportunities for everyone. Whether that’s diversity of gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background or ability, there’s a lot that we need to address if we’re going to ensure prosperity for all.

A previous Form the Future annual conference. Picture: Richard Marsham
A previous Form the Future annual conference. Picture: Richard Marsham

And what do young people want from work anyway? Attitudes to work and expectations of the deal they make with their employer have changed massively in the 30 years since I took my first job. There’s a disconnect between what employers expect from their young employees and what those employees expect from their employers.

This is the focus of Form the Future’s conference on December 1: how to prepare young people for a rapidly changing world, in association with the Cambridge Independent. With climate change, two wars waging on our continent, a spike in poor mental health, record school absence levels, and the continued low levels of funding for schools in the East of England, the challenges are great.

But we’re hopeful. We are lucky to live in an area where we’re finding solutions to some of the toughest challenges and we believe that the opportunities for our young people are great.

Conference sponsor Amy Forrest, of First Intuition, said: “Young people now are entering a very different world of work, with economic, technological and social changes having a huge impact on their careers.

“It is crucial for everyone involved in career development to continue the discussions needed to prepare young people for those significant transitions.

“This event will provide the collaborative space to foster some excellent discussions.”

A previous Form the Future annual conference. Picture: Richard Marsham
A previous Form the Future annual conference. Picture: Richard Marsham

With speakers including Daniel Zeichner MP, director of strategy at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, leading employers, school leaders, and local universities, plus support from Railpen, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Careers Hub, First Intuition, First Ascent, Cambridge University Press & Assessment, ARU and others, it’s a packed programme of talks, workshops, and networking. Anyone involved in early careers, CSR/ESG, economic development or careers education will find something of value and have a chance to contribute to discussions.

If you want to learn how you can be part of the solution and help to form a hopeful future for young people – and deliver the workforce our growing companies need – please join us at The Moller Institute on December 1.

Book your ticket online via Eventbrite.

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