ProQuo Provokes: Putting Digitalisation at The Centre of Employability

Posted on January 14, 2021

Updated on January 15, 2021

3 min read time

Sharon Davies became chief executive of Young Enterprise at the end of 2019, and has led the charity through what has been the most tumultuous year in over a generation. Being a Covid-CEO is no mean feat, it’s been the ultimate test on leadership, but Sharon is passionate about the future of the younger generation and I found my conversation on ProQuo Provokes with her about her journey both inspiring and motivating.

Young Enterprise is a national charity that focuses on the potential of the UK’s young people, and believes that an academic education on its own isn’t enough. Their mission is to motivate young people to succeed and aim to equip them with the skills, financial knowledge and confidence needed in the ever-changing workplace. If there’s ever been a more important time to focus on young people and their mindset to make the most of both opportunities and challenges, it’s now. For many, their world has been turned upside down, and it’s refreshing to see the remarkable work of Young Enterprise who are making important contributions to the lives of thousands of young professionals each year.

Young Enterprise as a brand is incredibly interesting, they’re a key cornerstone of the UK’s charity sector and have been in existence for my entire lifetime! Based upon the successful Junior Achievement programme in America, the brand is synonymous with hope, aid and education. Our discussion was multi-faceted, focussing on adaptable leadership, the next generation and the importance of digital learning for the future of work.

At ProQuo, AI and data is at the heart of what we do, and so I was interested in pulling out these themes in the work that Sharon and her team do day-to-day. She stated that “regardless of your career, we're going to have to embrace algorithms, machine learning, marketing - all of which will require a digital understanding.” And I think she’s absolutely right, a digital understanding is crucial to every area of business now, no matter what age or sector you work in, it’s a trend that has undeniably been accelerated by the pandemic.

This naturally led our discussion onto what the future of work looks like for young people. For the generation that were youngsters during the financial crash of 2008, they are now living through a second round of economic turmoil. Sharon explained how “there's a strong narrative on the news about the “lost generation, the COVID, failed generation… This language in itself only serves to disempower young people.” It opened my eyes to the fact that we must all be wary of the way in which we encourage the young, and do not serve to diminish or disempower them - their futures have been thrown up in the air and yet, they will have a large stake in the recovery of the economy. As CEOs and leaders, we have a duty to empower them, support them to become more entrepreneurial and inject some hope back into the narrative.

Podcast Assets - Sharon Davies - Quote-4-1

In fact, Sharon explained how the world of work has changed so drastically over the past year, and described young people as “digital natives.” Indeed, Generation Z have been brought up with a whole host of different technologies from when we were children, their lives have been built and exposed to a world of Facebook, Instagram and Smartphones from birth. And now, the world of work requires its employees to use these tools as second nature, especially in an environment of working from home. Sharon explained that, “if you think about how quickly organisations have had to scramble to run remotely - it's young people who have shown themselves to be extraordinary, resourceful and adaptable.” Yet again, I couldn’t agree more.

Not only have our young people proven themselves to be extremely flexible to the changing face of work - but their resilience is remarkable. With children myself, I’ve seen first-hand how demotivating and uninspiring this past year has been for them. And for many, a year like no other, completely different to what they were expecting both inside and outside of education, when the world of endless possibilities should have been wide open to them it was all turned on its head - and their resilience has shone.

Lastly, Sharon and I spoke about how vital technology and AI will be to the future of every business, globally. She said that “digital skills will become embedded within all employability skills - the way we market, communicate, solve problems, will all need to be embedded within a digital context.” She acknowledged that Young Enterprise have room to grow in this area, and how they use technology themselves. I can’t wait to see how they encompass this into their already incredible work! Ultimately, a very different sector and brand to my own, however there was much common ground and crossover, it was a conversation I thoroughly enjoyed and opened my eyes in many ways.

Give the full conversation a listen at:

Podcast Assets - Sharon Davies - Feature-Image-for-ProQuo-Provokes-FM-Site


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