Smart Moves: Don't knock a little bit of wisdom in the workplace

BRING TOGETHER a catering assistant, a fundraiser, a housing officer, two housewives, a couple of students (one mature, one teenager) and a woman who runs her own pub. Throw in a leatherworker, a jobless man, two retired women - a dressmaker and a magistrate - and a professional bassoon player. Ask them to talk about their experiences of work. Get them to hear out the "experts" from the Government and research centres. Then ask them to come up with a verdict on what constitutes "employability".

Last week, a dozen people from all these walks of life assembled for the latest in a series of citizens' juries entitled Debate of the Age. Funded by Age Concern, the juries have been looking at the implications for British society of an ageing population - the growing percentage of people who live longer. Pensions and housing were two previous subjects: this group of jurors considered the workplace, and what it might look like in 30 years' time.

Mark Bunting, of the research firm Opinion Leader Research, which organises the debates, explains: "There aren't many opport- unities for people to get involved in public policy decision-making, and many didn't know about the policies being designed, which would have direct impact on their lives. This is a way to get round it.

"At the start the group had this nostalgic view of a golden age of manufacturing, where everybody had jobs which suited them," says Mr Bunting. "But they started to appreciate that not only can you not turn back the clock, but it's not desirable. At first, they thought of employability as the right qualifications, being able to talk coherently. Then they thought more about the skills you need, and the attitude to ensure that you're employable."

The roles of government, employer and individual were vigorously debated. Educational policy was perceived as behind the times. "There was a feeling that schools were not good at preparing people for the working world, and not good at equipping people with IT skills," says Mr Bunting. Personal development classes and built-in IT components were needed, they said. One recommendation was to raise the school-leaving age to 18 and incorporate periods of work experience.

Jurors wanted the Government to ensure that people made the most of emerging opportunities from European economic union. Continuity was another priority. "Having a host of new initiatives is not helpful. They thought the New Deal was good, but didn't know much about it," says Mr Bunting.

The issue of giving older people new skills was discussed. "People need to be acclimatised in terms of changing work. They felt the Government had not got to grips with managing expectations, and letting people know what opportunities were open to them: vacancies in travel and tourism, or IT, for instance. Some of the older population are having to confront changing jobs for the first time." This led to a recommendation to encourage employees to "buy into" their own re-skilling rather than having it forced upon or presented to them.

Michelle Harrison, of the Henley Centre, raised the issue of part-time homeworking, something which is set to grow. "It could be that by 2020 some of us will be working in virtual organisations." She adds that while much has been talked about a "leisure" society, the reality is that Britons are working harder than any other European nation. The increasing numbers of women joining the workforce, and the decline of belief in "jobs for life", are also factors in changing the face of the workplace.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst to join a leading e-...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K YR1: SThree: At SThree, we like to be dif...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is a mul...

Guru Careers: C# Project Team Lead

£55 - 65k (DOE): Guru Careers: A unique opportunity for a permanent C# Develop...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor