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Birkbeck roundtable explores cross-industry perspectives on skills gap and social mobility

Business and education professionals come together to discuss collaborative solutions

Employers and educators need to work together to advance social mobility and tackle the skills gap, attendees at a roundtable discussion held at Birkbeck this week have agreed.

Industry representatives from a wide range of sectors including technology, finance and marketing, joined careers and social mobility managers from Birkbeck at the event held at the Keynes Library on Monday December 14, titled “The Skills Gap and Social Mobility: Collaborative Approaches between Education and Business”.

The roundtable, which was led by the Birkbeck Careers and Employability Service, is strongly connected to the services Work Readiness Programme, a pioneering initiative which aims to enhance social mobility and promote diversity in the job market by establishing partnerships with employers.

Participants to the roundtable discussion, which was chaired by Birkbeck’s Pro-Vice Master of Innovation, Prof Philip Powell, included diversity managers from Barclays and J.P. Morgan, start-up founders from Zealify, Craft and 27partners, recruitment specialists from IBM and MediaMath, business development managers from TechCity UK and representatives of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

The participants acknowledged the persistence and deterioration of the skills gap in the United Kingdom and explored the disconnect between employers and education in devising decisive solutions, calling for the importance of identifying synergies and investing in long-term collaborations with a view to higher education and the job market developing symbiotically.

It was emphasised that such a goal would require adjustments from both sides. For instance, it was agreed that universities should consider embedding employability in their curricula. And it was noted that institutions that have already taken such measures have seen their graduates achieving better results in assessment centres and securing better career opportunities.

At the same time, employers were urged to consider more innovative and inclusive approaches to recruitment, including initiatives that engage students from underrepresented backgrounds as well as better structured high level and degree apprenticeships.

Ilya Levtov, CEO of, and contributing employer partner of the Work Readiness Programme, said the roundtable was an “impressively candid and open discussion, combining both industry giants, and up and coming companies, each sharing their challenges and approaches to getting employment right”.

He said: “It was especially encouraging to feel a shared commitment to inclusivity and creating great opportunities. It emphasized the huge value of open dialogue among employers and educators, and Birkbeck and its Careers and Employability Service deserves great credit for bringing this group together and driving such a stimulating discussion.”

Following from this event, an exclusive partnership with TechCity UK is being formalised to go live in 2016, and an employer advisory board is currently being established to guide and support the strategic direction of Birkbeck Careers & Employability.

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