The initial impact of the “Leave” vote in the June 23rd referendum was momentous – with both the political landscape and global economy temporarily rocked by the outcome. Despite this, business in the main rapidly adopted a “Keep Calm” approach. Many already had communications prepared ready to provide reassurance to staff and customers alike and, in many cases, contingency plans that were activated and which have seen them through initial uncertainties.
As we stand now there are signs that the UK economy will not immediately dip as feared. Purchasing Manager Index figures covering the Manufacturing and Services sectors for August indicated a return to a form of stability, matched by signs of a resurgence in the housing market. Consumer spending is robust – bolstered partly by a weak pound against tourist currencies and partly by ongoing low interest rates.
So rather than sit back and hope this period of calm lasts, we should take it as an opportunity – and not just to focus on our organisation, but on the social forces that led to the Brexit vote, and how we should be responding as businesses in society.
Addressing the underlying issues—good corporate citizens
While the UK has been experiencing an economic recovery – the halo effect of that isn’t reaching everyone, and over 700,000 young people remain out of work, and persistently so. The economic impact of that is one thing, the social cost is even more significant. Views will differ on whether this is true or not but the fact is that large pockets of the country feel left behind by the recovery – and disproportionately affected by the austerity measures that support it, with spending cuts and tax rises adversely impacting their lives.
Engage in the challenges of our communities
At Accenture we believe that one of the most important things we can do as a business is to engage in the challenges of the communities we live in, and that surround us. Our focus isn’t limited to our work within communities or programmes that traditionally fit within a CSR agenda – we see our remit as being at the heart of the national Growth Agenda – supporting the creation of jobs, improving skills and employability, and contributing to the economic success of the UK. As our lives become ever more digitally orientated it is increasingly important that we not only focus on getting people into today’s jobs, but also equip people with the necessary skills to be effective in tomorrow’s jobs.
Provide the skills
Our Skills to Succeed programme is just one of the ways in which we as an organisation want to help break the pattern of low skills and unemployment. Since 2009, our UK initiatives have equipped 120,000 people with the skills to get a job or build a business – helping many transition to sustainable employment and entrepreneurship. Additionally, our Skills to Succeed Academy has provided 44,000 low-skilled or unemployed young people in the UK with online training focused on finding the right job, and providing them with the skills to get that job. And the next job.
Partner with those operating at the sharp end of helping people into work
Nor should we limit our ambition to getting people into jobs: we want to help create jobs, through training and support that help entrepreneurs start new businesses, and then grow them. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, we partner with those pivotal organisations already helping people who find it hardest to find, stay in and succeed in work. Since 2012 Accenture supported programmes with The Prince’s Trust have helped 9,300 young people develop the skills to either get a job or open their own business. Specifically, in 2014 we worked with The Prince’s Trust to deliver their “Get Into” programme; 55% of those who took part are now in work. Additionally, through our work with The Bright Ideas Trust we have delivered training to 1,450 young people to enable them to start their own business.
Engage on more than one level
It’s part of our belief that to be effective in this kind of intervention you have to engage on many levels – practical and financial; online and in person; through volunteering as individuals and pro bono work as a consultancy. Last year over 2 percent of our workforce donated their own time, of which over 60% participated in skills based volunteering with charities and causes that address the most pressing challenges. We bring together our clients, our people and the most innovative technology available to accelerate the impact we have on tackling the challenge of low skills and unemployment, and make it as relevant as possible to the modern world of work.
Providing people with the right skills to succeed is crucial to growing an ever stronger, more vibrant economy – an economy in which we all can thrive. An economy that in the medium term at least is going to be a little uncertain. Achieving that transformation in the prospects of everyone, to acknowledge that too many feel left behind, requires business to play its part at the heart and soul of the process. To step up, and to do so again and again. Now more than ever.