How is the World Changing and How Can I Change With It?

06 Oct 2017

LSBM Lighthouse Launched with a big bang event on the afternoon of Wednesday 4 Oct 2017 as David Palmer (right of picture), UK Research Manager at Trendence (who are behind 'The Guardian UK 300' report), Sara Williams (2nd from the right), Head of Programmes and Partnerships at Think Global and Maila Reeves (2nd from the left), Entrepreneur in Residence at Westminster Business School (and self-confessed 'Curious' individual) were gathered together by Arif Zaman (left of picture), Deputy Director, Centre for Research and Enterprise at LSBM to discuss 'How is the World Changing and How Can I Change With It?'

This weighty topic deserved a big audience, and we were not disappointed, with a large turnout of students, staff and members of the public all coming along to see how the panel saw the future shaping up.

Arif Zaman opened proceedings by saying that a ‘VUCA’ world ('Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous') deserved examination, and invited the three panel members to present on the topic.


David Palmer - UK Research Manager at Trendence


The first to speak was David Palmer who approached the issue from an analytical perspective, given weight by his employers, UK Trendence Research being the research company behind the latest edition of 'The Guardian UK 300' report for 2017/18 which ranks the 300 most popular graduate employers in the UK.

In order to compile the report, Trendence received feedback from 62,814 students from 126 Universities, right through from first-year students (29%), penultimate year (20%) and final year students (51%). The weighty tome (literally! The printed version is 421 pages, much of which is advertising admittedly, but a goodly amount is content) breaks down who students felt would be the best companies to work for.

Approximately 2/3rds of respondents (64%) of the students who completed the report identified as female and a third (36%) as male, so clearly unbalanced in terms of gender (though Trendence does say on their website that, 'the data was cleansed and weighted by HESA population statistics to ensure that findings are accurate and representative'.) 

David spoke in his talk about the shifting fortunes of different employment sectors for graduates. Listing the 'Rising' and 'Falling' ones as follows:

Risers

  • The Public Sector
  • Consulting
  • Banking and Financial Services
  • Investment Banking

Fallers

  • Energy and Utilities
  • Law: Solicitors
  • IT and Technology
  • Retail

(Though, he didn't really explain the rationale behind the assertions. Solicitors, for example, he listed as being 'Fallers'. When the statistics tend to indicate the opposite. There were 132,635 practicing Solicitors in England and Wales in January 2016, and 139,638 in July 2017. So, judging by that, it would appear that the Law is not exactly an industry in terminal decline.)

Starting Salaries for new graduates is on the rise according to the research. Up from £22,100 in 2012 to £25,305 in 2017 according to the Graduate Study 2017 on which the report is based. 

So, if graduates are going to change the world at least they will have a bit more cash in their pockets to make it happen!

(Interestingly, both MI5 and MI6 separately feature in the top ten employers, so working for the secret services is clearly an attractive career for many students).

He also pointed to a possible 'Brexit effect' on the sentiment from international students staying in the UK. 

In 2016 according to their research, only 16% of international students planned to leave the UK upon graduation. In 2017, in a survey of 1st Year International Students, 31% planned to leave the UK after their studies had finished. 

(It is perhaps though worth pointing out that a student's intentions in the first year may not match up with their actions two or three years later when they graduate, and so whether or not reality catches up with sentiment remains to be seen.)

David also explored some statistics with regards to where students wanted to end up working. In 2016, 43% of students wanted to move to London to work, but that figure was 38% in 2017.

(This may, or may not be positive. Without reading the minds of the respondents it is difficult to gauge if this could be because other cities in the UK are increasingly seen as good places to work (which is positive), or if London is seen less favourably. Either way, as with most statistics, the figure is interesting, but not necessarily illuminating. The population of London has risen at twice the rate of the UK as a whole since 2011, so sentiment may not, in any case, mirror reality.)

Similarly, the company rankings, while interesting are also perhaps not what they at first seem.

Reading the way these are calculated it becomes clear that these are in fact 'attitudes towards employers', rather than real-world opinions of people who were employees of the companies.

Specifically:

Firstly, the survey requested students to declare a broad career sector in which they were interested. 

Secondly, students were provided with a list of employers and were asked to deselect those about whose employment opportunities they knew nothing. 

Thirdly, they ranked the remaining employers in terms of their attractiveness. 

Finally, they ranked a top three.

So, the rankings are perhaps more an indication of brand awareness, popularity, and possibly second-hand reports from friends or exposure to the companies at job fairs or through the media, rather then direct work experience with the companies work practices (which makes sense, as how many of the 62,814 students who responded will actually have worked for Google or MI6 or know anyone who has? For MI6 applicants they tell you not to talk about the application, so recommending them to your friends would sort of mean you probably aren't what they are looking for!)

High rankings may then make them 'cool' places to work in the eyes of your peers (and give you bragging rights). But it doesn't necessarily make them 'good' places to work. So due diligence is still called for before applying.

The top five for 2017/18 were:

1/ Google
2/ Cancer Research UK
3/ GlaxoSmithKline
4/ MI6 - Secret Intelligence Service
5/ Channel 4

You can find the full 'The Guardian UK 300' here.

 


Sara Williams - Head of Programmes and Partnerships at Think Global


Next up was Sara Williams, Head of Programmes and Partnerships at Think Global, an education charity that describes itself as 'helping people to understand – and then take action on – global issues'.

They do this through supporting educators, teachers, and member organisations to help to inform students about global issues.

Sara approached the subject of change from two main angles.

Firstly, with regards to a report called 'Turbulent Times: Skills for a Global World' that was based on interviews with around 500 business leaders and research carried out by Think Global shortly before the Brexit vote in June 2016.

The significance of the timing is that whatever 'sentiment' may now be attributed to the Brexit result, is missing from this report, so it marks an interesting benchmark of attitudes shortly before that landmark vote. 

Sara looked more broadly at '21st Century Skills' as defined by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as a means to capture what constituted 'global skills'.


These were 18 cores skills that were split into three areas:

  • Foundational Literacies - How students apply core skills to everyday tasks
  • Competencies - How students approach complex challenges
  • Character Qualities - How students approach their changing environment

You can find the full breakdown of the 18 core skills that the WEF identified here. (It is also worth scrolling down further on that page, as the chart below it, which talks about how you may go about building up some of the skills it identifies, is perhaps more interesting then simply telling you that being 'Curious' is a good thing!)


Sara identified three main recommendations from the Turbulent Times report:

For the skills sector: Core skills should be taught alongside global or 21st century skills. Education institutions should demand more from employers and regulatory bodies to increase the focus on these skills.
 

For businesses: Employers should take a role in preparing young people for future work in a global economy. Connections with education institutions should be strengthened as well as employers themselves developing their own understanding of a complex, rapidly changing global environment.
 

For government: To future-proof the education and training system, global and long-term perspectives must be adopted into curricula; and official projections for employment and skills in the UK (for example, from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) should include specific considerations of global trands.

The second angle of approaching change was to look at the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were adopted by all 193 countries in the United Nations (UN) in September 2015 to be 'achieved' by 2030. 

These are as follows:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life On Land
  16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

 

You can read more detail about the goals here on the United Nations website.

 

As members of the audience pointed out later, this is not the first time that the United Nations has set challenging goals.

The Eight UN 'Millenium Development Goals' were also adopted by all United Nations member states (at that time - since 2000, Tuvalu, Serbia, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Montenegro and South Sudan have also joined the UN) following the Millenium Summit in 2000, with a target date for achievement of 2015. These were: 
 

  1. Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
  2. Achieve Universal Primary Education
  3. Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
  4. Reduce Child Mortality
  5. Improve Maternal Health
  6. Combat HIV/Aids, Malaria and Other Diseases
  7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability
  8. Global Partnership for Development

 

Seventeen years after these were agreed, and two years after these goals were supposed to be 'achieved' and it does somewhat feel like eight goals has become seventeen with an extended deadline.

Yet Sara felt there were reasons for hope.

What these types of initiatives do achieve is to provide a good way to get started, a focus and framework for action and a direction of travel for everybody.

There has also been a concerted effort on some issues since the SDGs were agreed, such as climate change with the Paris Climate Accord, that has put real action behind some of the words.

She stressed that not only were these good moral goals, but also good goals for business and the bottom line, as healthier global markets have more resources to buy things.

She mentioned the example of the law firm Hogan Lovells. Think Global have been training their staff in the value of the SDGs and why they are important, and she quoted the following from Unilever CEO, Paul Polman to stress the business case for getting on-board with the SDG agenda.

"It is not possible to have a strong, functioning business in a world of increasing inequality, poverty and climate change. Business has the unique opportunity to embrace the SDG agenda and recognise it as a driver of business strategies, innovation and investment decisions. Doing so makes business sense and will give them an edge over their competitors."

'No Poverty' or 'Zero Hunger' may be unlikely to be achieved by 2030, but that doesn't mean that passionate people shouldn't declare them, Elon Musk Mars style, as worthy goals to strive towards. In turn raising the bar on what we should expect from ourselves, our communities and our politicians.

As Lao Tzu said:
 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Let us hope that the Sustainable Development Goals give us all courage to strengthen our resolve to continue to work to solve these big challenges.


 


Maila Reeves - Entrepreneur in Residence at Westminster Business School


Maila opened with a slide that listed a few of her 'labels' as:

  • Angel Investor
  • Mentor to Start-ups
  • Entrepreneur in Residence at Westminster Business School
  • Director of Forward Ladies (the UK's largest women's business support organisation)

She also mentioned that she is a Barrister and (didn't mention) that she is also on the Executive Team for the Commonwealth Businesswomen's Network. So an impressive CV.

She said that the labels could come off because she didn't believe in labels and that principally she thought of herself as being 'Curious' (which, incidentally, is number 11 in the list of '21st Century Skills' that Sara Williams had talked about earlier). 

Curiosity is useful when you are dissecting a changing world.

Marla collected her thoughts about change and the opportunities and trends that she had seen working with start-up technology companies under eight different words and phrases:


1/ Disruption

  • Industry disruption
  • Financial Tech
  • Health Tech
  • Geographical and Cultural disruption
  • Geopolitical disruption - including movements away from globalisation to anti-globalization

Which can lead to uncertainty for people, businesses, and economies.

 

2/ Rent not Buy

  • Subscribing to services to stream content ('rent') eg Movies, Music - rather than buying DVDs or CDs
  • Renting cars rather than buying them
  • Renting holiday homes on Airbnb, rather than buying them

Consumption patterns are changing.

 

3/ On Demand Work Population

  • No collar workforce - 'The 4th Industrial Revolution' (So named by the World Economic Forum
  • We choose - Where we work, How we work, What we work on (depending on our need and our choices)
  • We rent out our homes to Airbnb, rent out our cars by working for Uber
  • We curate friends and YouTube and Instagram communities so we can sell product placement

Leverage our creativity to sell products.

 

4/ K9, AI & Geeks

  • Innovation - Nanotechnology and robotics
  • Having Alexa in your home
  • Roboslaves - Robots that are there to serve us 
  • Skill up - Speak the digital language to avoid being left behind
  • The New Celebrity - Geeks, the Elon Musks of the world
  • Data - How do we use and drive our businesses with data?

Sustainability - Better relations with our planet, our consumers, our businesses, our communities, production and product values.

 

5/ Borderless Society

  • Cybercrime - Where has an offence taken place? Its destination? Where did it originate? Complicated legal implications
  • With technology the world is going flat - Easy online access, even in rural Africa with smartphones proliferating

Increased access to global markets.

 

6/ 1 Billion People

  • The new generation of consumers coming out of emerging markets
  • The next wave of consumers
  • Wider range of products needed to target them
  • More people going from the 'threshold' of £5000 a year to become 'middle class' 

Increasing disposable income and consumer base.

 

7/ People Power

  • Put people at the heart of everything
  • Can go from hero to zero (and vice-versa) very quickly
  • The power of one e.g terrorist attacks - one person scaring many
  • The power of a few - isolated people can come together online to form niche groups.
  • The power of the many - crowdsourcing, influencers on social media

 

8/ Privacy - Protection - Trust (PPT) and World War 3

  • In a world of ultra-transparency, PPT is important for consumers
  • Trust is at the heart of everything
  • Recommended Breachaware (checks if your email address has been breached)
  • Tipping point comes when consumers recommend your product to someone else - Because at that time they become you unpaid, credible, ambassador and it then carries that consumers stamp of trust, which is far more valuable
  • Movement from Hard power to Soft power to Cyber power - Attacking people online to steal people's information

Maila concluded by commenting that students can change the world by making a difference. By knowing your values you can align yourselves with employers that you believe in.


The Panel Discussion

There then followed a panel discussion chaired by Arif Zaman.

It explored issues of how big companies need to do more to prepare for a global world, how students perceive change, SDGs and awareness, perspectives on a borderless world, entrepreneurship and global change.

To conclude, each of the panel gave their answer to this question posed by Arif Zaman

"Given the level of uncertainty about what will happen in the future. What is the key thing students who are in higher education today should be keeping in mind?"

David Palmer 

"What we are seeing is that there is a massive gap between where industries may end up in five or ten years time, and the people needed to fill the roles in those industries. So, often we are working with employers to find the people they are going to need to fill those roles, and that is at the core of what we do. 
 

We take a look at the populations that employers can access and we ask questions like, "Is this population balanced? Is this a population that is diverse in ways that it should be?" And the answer, most of the time, is that absolutely it is not. 
 

So, I think that the biggest challenge with new and rapidly changing industries is making sure that students both at school and university level understand how the world of work is going to change, so they can prepare and take action to actually fit into that changing world. 
 

We have started a schools study to complement the universities study, which asked school students how they planned their careers and what particular industries they want to go into. Our employers that we work with, ask us questions like how they can hit a particular gender diversity in STEM ('Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths') for example, and to look at the stats to work out if that is feasible and when that might be feasible by. 
 

The problem is that when you look at students at schools level, you have a lot of females students who tell us they are really interested in STEM back in year 10 or 11, but by year 12 or 13 when they choose A-level subjects the interest has dropped off. A big part of the problem is that when we ask students how much information they are being given about the market and future careers at that point in time, the answer is not enough. 
 

So, I think that the biggest problem from our point of view is that information, and that students are not being given sufficient information."


Sara Williams

"I think one thing I would say is about being prepared. I think we can prepare ourselves as educators, as students we can prepare ourselves for the future. I would say to go back and take a look at that World Economic Forum list of "21st Century Skills", because there is some really interesting stuff in there. Break it down and think how you as an educator and you as a student. Do you have those skills to prepare yourself, or the people you are working with for the future?
 

On the STGs. Yes, keep tearing them apart, keep criticising them, but think about how much difference they could make if we all started to work towards them."


Maila Reeves

"I have three little points to make. The first thing is that I think we should innovate collectively and come together, because together we are better. Sounds cheesy, but it's true. We can do so much more. The second is embrace failure. It's a different way of thinking, pivoting and changing and getting better and you can do something great.  And when you can make something great, you can make it even better, yourself, your product, your service, all of that. And the third one is skill-up digitally. Learn how to navigate the digital landscape to market yourself, your business and access global markets, because it's out there. You have a shop window to the world. Use it."


Arif finished by drawing attention to a recent Bloomberg report which highlighted Pakistan, Cameroon and South Korea as the countries predicted to be the fastest growing retail markets between 2016 and 2021.

(Note - This does highlight globalisation. It is however worth pointing out that this is in percentage terms, not in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Larger markets may have lower figures of headline growth, because they are mature markets, but may nevertheless have much larger retail markets. The UK economy for example, according to 2016 figures from the International Monetary Fund had a GDP of 2,629,188 (millions of US$) compared to Pakistan 284,185, Cameroon 29,334, and South Korea 1,411,246)


Many thanks to all of the panel for coming, the student helpers who raced around with microphones, and the audience for coming to a very successful first 'official' Lighthouse event!

You can see details of all future Lighthouse Events both on the Lighthouse and LSBM Events pages.

 

Stuart Brown
Media and Content Manager

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