Peter Estlin is an Alderman of the City of London and a London Fairness Commissioner
This competition is an indication of London’s economic success, as well as being fuel for future prosperity. But to ensure London is a fair city, we must ensure equal opportunity for those educated here to access employment. They must be able to compete with the best who come to London from around the world.
The “will” to provide world-leading skills and training already exists. Many employers already share their knowledge and skills with education institutions across the capital. While well intentioned, this has created a myriad of interventions that lacks strategic foresight informed by analysis of the skills gaps across sectors.
While there are some great examples, a lack of strategic oversight means that current interventions are not reaching enough young people to fill those skills shortages that exist – productivity remains low.
This is the moment for a new Mayor to take lead. A policy solution is required that aligns the work of educators and trainers, with businesses and local communities – in a new era of collaboration that brings together the ‘supply-side’ with the skills shortages of the capital’s businesses – the ‘demand-side’. There are currently 105,000 Londoners aged between 16 and 24 not in employment, training or education, representing 1 in 10 of that age group.
The quid pro quo of London’s economic boom is the promise of opportunities for all. If London’s political, business and educational leaders are not adequately preparing young Londoners to compete – if they are put at a disadvantage before they even enter the labour market – then acceptance of London’s openness will be under threat.
This matters to me because of my own life experiences. Family tragedy at a young age undermined my time in school, and it was only through work experience at a local accounting firm that I learnt the appeal of the world of work. My interest in the world of finance was unlocked through that experience, and led me into a career that took me around the world and back.
Ensuring opportunities are shared equally – in education, training and employment – can ensure that no one is unfairly held back by their life circumstances, over which they had no control. To achieve this in an ever changing world – and labour market – means asking what keys are needed to unlock the potential of young Londoners.
These considerations form part of the London Fairness Commission’s work. Established to ask Londoners what they feel is fair and unfair about their city, the Commission will develop recommendations for making London fairer. Through our work we have found a sense of unfairness emerging for those entering London’s highly competitive labour market.
Our research found that just under a third (30%) of Londoners felt that London is place where people are held back from succeeding in life because of their background. Relatedly, a quarter of all Londoners (24%) expected their financial situation to worsen over the coming 12 months. This is far too high.
In March we will be publishing a series of recommendations for tackling unfairness in London. One will address the ‘Journey to a job’ taken by young Londoners. I hope you all – businesses, political leaders and educators – will be able to join us in making this journey fairer for London’s future.