FORMER UK Cabinet minister Sir Vince Cable and a former head of the Number 10 policy unit were among the big hitters speaking at the ‘Future of Work’ event.
Beau Sejour’s David Ferguson Hall held around 175 delegates, with some speakers joining via Zoom. It was an impressive illustration of how to host a hybrid event.
The morning session highlighted the economy, the importance of wellbeing and longevity. Keynote speaker Baroness Camilla Cavendish, author of ‘Extra Time: 10 Lessons for an Ageing World’, spoke about a ‘whole new stage of life which I call “extra time2”, which is basically an extended middle age’.
The former director of the Number 10 policy unit added that there are now many people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s who are healthier, more energetic and more capable than before. She also spoke about ‘multi generational workforces’, with what could be four generations working together.
Older people, she said, are going back to work, sometimes 10 years after officially retiring, for financial reasons or simply because they miss the camaraderie and structure of work. For the first time in history, she said, there are more people aged 65+ in the world than those aged five and under. Longer lives and falling birth rates are a challenge, she concluded.
After a networking lunch, the next session focused on flexible working, technology, lifelong learning and skills of the future. Joining remotely, Sir Vince Cable – the former leader of the Liberal Democrats and cabinet minister – felt that lifelong learning is no longer on the political agenda, with universities coming before further education, and adult education being at the ‘bottom of the pile’.
The panellists also discussed life after furlough, with Peter Cheese, chief executive officer of the CIPD, saying that we must build on core and transferable skills. ‘We need to build a sustainable workforce in the future, we can’t leave it to chance.’
The panel were asked: ‘How do we persuade employers and workers to devote the necessary time to develop skills?’ Mr Cheese replied that we need to reinvent learning in the workplace, and that we were moving into a different world of digital and embedded learning.
‘We need to re-image and rethink learning,’ he said.
On technology, the panel said FinTechs are taking a positive approach to AI, selling it as a service, for example, in anti-money laundering. However, the audience was warned that data is vital, as AI is only as good as the customer data. They were also warned that it would be white collar workers in Guernsey whose jobs would be vulnerable to AI, as Lukas Ryll from Cambridge University said that ‘job losses [to AI] are expected to be largest in investment management’.
Fellow panellist John Cope (strategy director, UCAS) said that the fourth industrial revolution (AI) is snowballing quicker than previous revolutions, which tended to hit the lower paid or specific industries. AI affects all industries, high and low payers.
The fifth revolution (Bio-tech) is also on the near horizon. ‘The AI revolution will sweep all before it,’ he said. ‘But teamwork, the ability to solve problems and human skills will remain.’
Sir Vince added that there is always a tendency to panic regarding the impacts of new technology, but usually more jobs are created.
The final session of the day saw panellists talk about the gig economy, unemployment and Guernsey PLC. Justin Bellinger, director at Sure, said that any gig economy relies on supply and demand and connectivity.