Businesses gather at Kingston University for inaugural Future of Work Summit

Business leaders from across the region gathered at Kingston Business School for the inaugural Future of Work Summit, organised by Kingston Chamber of Commerce.

The event brought together organisations from a range of sectors with Kingston University staff and students to share educational insights, network, and engage in conversations around the importance of future skills for the economy.

Opened by the Mayor of Kingston upon Thames, Councillor Diane White, MP Sarah Olney, and Deputy Leader of Kingston Council, Alison Holt, the summit featured a series of seminars and roundtable discussions with leaders and practitioners from different areas of business, exploring the key challenges facing industry today.

Howard Freeman, Managing Director of data protection and compliance consultancy, Fortis DPC, said events such as the summit provided a valuable opportunity for businesses to work more closely with universities to explore how to meet the needs of the workforce of the future. “Businesses need to do vocational training with students – they need to understand what we’re doing, and we need to understand what they’re doing,” he said.

“If we can get to a place where students have a really strong understanding of what business’ needs are, it will really help set them on the path to progress towards a career themselves.”

The summit also featured a roundtable discussion centred around future skills. Kingston University has spearheaded a sector-leading campaign to champion the skills for innovation, which the industry says it most needs – such as problem solving, adaptability and critical thinking. From the next academic year, future skills will be embedded across every course.

The roundtable discussion saw businesses discuss the skills they found most valuable in new employees, as well as exploring the topics of employee development and diversity.

Chris Hirsch, Managing Partner of financial advisory firm Holland Hahn & Wills outlined some of the skills he looks for in graduates, which reflect some of the key findings from the University’s future skills research. “The core skill is problem solving – that really is incredibly important,” he said. “Critical thinking is also essential as you can’t solve a problem unless you have a good idea about what is useful and what isn’t.”

The summit culminated in a Hackathon run by Kingston Business School, which saw students and staff work together with businesses to come up with solutions to problems they had identified. Discussions covered artificial intelligence and how to use it in business, as well as how to diversify the workforce and tackling issues around employee retention.

The University’s Head of Enterprise Education Martha Mador said the summit showcased the value of bringing employers from different sectors together with students and educators to explore core challenges and opportunities across the business world.