We need better quality local jobs and services
When planning for the future, it’s not just about making sure people have access to skills and training to get into any job – we want those jobs to be good, rewarding jobs. For this, the job-enriching practices of innovative firms need to be spread across the economy and applied to workers across different types of employment contracts.
Good quality jobs are not available everywhere. Workers in highly innovative firms tend to be paid more and have more autonomy and control over how they work, as well as more opportunities to apply their imagination and creativity. But these innovative and productive firms are concentrated in specific places and their workforces are dominated by particular demographic and social groups. Too many people work in parts of the economy that are at risk of being devalued and left behind, for example in retail or care services.
According to Eurofound data, many new jobs created in the UK between 2011-15 were actually decreasing in quality. Two-thirds of the jobs created at the low-paid end of the spectrum were less secure, offering only part-time or temporary contracts or self-employed work. On the other hand, two-thirds of the most highly-paid jobs created were full-time, permanent jobs. Without innovation in how jobs are valued and organised, and new social policy that helps people cope with uncertainty around jobs and skills, there is a risk that we will end up compensating people who will lose out as a result of changes in the economy, instead of bringing many more people and places to participate in the future of work.
Nesta has been working with author and academic Roberto Mangabeira Unger and politicians, researchers and activists from across the OECD countries to explore policy options for an inclusive knowledge economy. This has included ideas on how governments can respond to new patterns of work and changes in jobs through new welfare provisions (such as basic income), new channels of power for citizens and workers (such as trade unions for the self-employed), and business support to incentivise firms to invest in the local economy and the workforce.
We have also led the Inclusive Economy Partnership Accelerator, supported by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Through partnerships between business, civil society and government, the accelerator supported seven organisations that help young people transition from education, unemployment or inactivity into paid work.
To start raising the quality of jobs across sectors and regions, we are calling for:
- The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to fund the testing of job design and management practices across industry sectors, to find out how best to enrich jobs while raising productivity, similar to the Business Basics Fund.
- The UK Government to support the development and adoption of collective-intelligence based tools and platforms, similar to ones supported by Nesta, that give greater voice to workers on flexible employment contracts and the self-employed.
- Local enterprise partnerships to align the investments around climate change to create local jobs suited to the people most at risk of losing their jobs and incentivise businesses to raise the quality of jobs across their workforce and the supply chain through Sector, City Region and Growth Deals. This can be done in a similar way to the Wales Economic Contract, which requires businesses seeking investment to demonstrate that they contribute to social purpose through Fair Work in particular.
- Local governments to use Challenge Funds to stimulate innovative interventions in sectors that employ lower-paid people, such as those in the foundational economy.
Find out moreNesta's work on jobs and skills
The Open Jobs programme is focused on helping individuals, organisations and governments take more informed labour market decisions through carrying out data-driven research, place-based experimentation and advocating for smarter labour market policies. We are working with national and local partners to open up and connect data on jobs and skills, and to develop methods, tools and platforms for addressing local challenges on skills, careers and jobs.
The CareerTech Challenge is a £5.75m partnership between Nesta and the Department for Education aiming to stimulate innovation in careers information, advice and guidance, and online training provision. The Prize will reward digital solutions that improve access to accurate, data- driven career information, advice and guidance. The Fund will provide grant funding for innovative tech solutions which motivate people and support them to learn new skills and retrain.
FutureFit is a major training and research project led by Nesta and supported by Google.org in partnership with trade unions, researchers and adult learning experts from across the Nordics and Benelux region. Through innovative training interventions and robust research and evaluation about ‘what works’, the programme aims to empower workers with the skills they need for tomorrow and improve the wider adult learning system across Northern Europe.
Digital Frontrunners is an international network of over 300 future of work experts, policymakers and practitioners who are working collaboratively to develop inclusive skills policy solutions. Supported by Google, the programme is co-designed with government departments in the Nordics and Benelux, and provides inspiration for countries beyond those regions on policy initiatives and solutions to digital transformation challenges.
Imagination Unleashed is a Nesta report, written in collaboration with Professor Roberto Mangabeira Unger, to explore policy options for an inclusive knowledge economy. It recommends action including widening access to capital and productive opportunity, transforming models
of ownership, addressing new concentrations of power, and democratising the direction of innovation.
Future Ready Fund is a £500,000 Nesta grant fund that supports high-potential, early-stage interventions that promote wider skills in secondary-age (11-18) young people, focusing on social and emotional skills and resilience.
Nesta Impact Investments is a £17.6 million fund investing in life-changing innovations that help tackle the major challenges faced by older people, children and communities in the UK. Examples of our investments that are particularly relevant to the future of work and skills include GetMyFirstJob, Profinda and BeApplied.
The Inclusive Economy Partnership brought together businesses, civil society and government to solve some of society’s toughest challenges, including developing tools to improve young people’s access to the job market. Led by Nesta, the Partnership was supported by the Cabinet Office and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The Future of Skills: Employment in 2030 is a Nesta report that maps out how employment is likely to change in the future – including the implications for skills. It also anticipates a number of new occupations for the future, which will require creativity, interpersonal skills, higher-order cognitive skills, and systems skills.