Business led learning, the solution to the skills gap?

Naomi Smith, Executive Director, Campaigns, London First 

We know the skills gap is affecting business across the capital, and will continue to impact economic growth unless long-term solutions are put in place. But, there’s much to learn from the great work already taking place and our Skills Commission is shining a light on what’s working and how to replicate or scale it up.

John Allan, Chairman, London First

I took our Chairman, John Allan to see what’s happening in the changing world of 14-19 education. London First member UEL’s new University Technical College is a solid example of where business and the public sector are joining forces to bring about change.

The Design and Engineering UTC is sponsored by a range of employers and kitted out with industry standard equipment. Based in the Royal Docks, the heart of East London’s regeneration zone, it’s a fitting environment to look to the future. Young people undertake highly vocational courses in a real-world learning environment. It’s not just the state of the art equipment that benefits these students, it’s access to first class work experience and business mentoring that prepares them for the world of work. Something employers have long addressed as one of the key skills gaps.

But, what more can be done? The Skills Commission has launched its inquiry, to map the gap in the skills system, and how business can step up and form part of the solution.

We’re looking for insight on the skills challenges your business or industry faces, what you’ve put in place, and how that’s working. Please respond to this consultation with your input by 31 October.

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Outer boroughs failing to build as London falls deeper into housing crisis

  • London boroughs in transport zones 5-6 are set to build just 17% of the homes required in 2017
  • Zones 1-4 will also fall short, building 80% of the new homes needed in 2017
  • 53,000 homes a year needed rises to 72,000, as population growth an long term supply shortage stretches the target still further

New figures show that many of London’s outer boroughs are failing to build enough homes and are contributing substantially to the city’s housing crisis, according to new calculations from leading business group, London First.

Following the Government’s change to its method of calculating the number of homes the capital needs, London First has crunched its housing data. Using the new methodology, boroughs in zones 5-6 are projected to construct an astonishingly low 17% of the homes that are needed to be built in 2017, exacerbating an already acute housing crisis.

Despite a good start to the first half of the year, zones 1-4 are set to provide only 80% of the homes they need to build this year.  Overall, London is now projected to complete just 63% of homes the city needs to build in 2017.

There is dire need to tackle the housing crisis in London, with house prices in the city doubling in the last decade and rents rising by 20%, despite wages having risen just 5%. The dramatic shortfall in construction required is making the housing crises worse, year-on-year.

Using the Government’s new methodology, zones 1-4 now need to be building 53,000 new homes a year, and zones 5-6 19,000. The total London now needs is 72,000 homes as opposed to the 49,000 homes a year stated in the current London Plan.

Even using the more generous previous methodology, zones 5-6 are estimated to build just 42% of their target this year.

Naomi Smith, Executive Director of Campaigns at London First, said: “These new figures are deeply worrying. The housing crisis is getting worse, not better. London is falling far short in providing the homes it needs. The Mayor and the Government must do more to drive construction in the city, and further devolution of powers to City Hall may be needed to make this happen.

“But this isn’t just a political issue. The lack of building in much of zones 5 and 6 is choking London, pushing up prices and squeezing young, productive workers out of the city. The housing crisis is one of the most serious challenges facing business, preventing firms from recruiting the talent they need to grow and succeed. Business could provide thousands of additional in jobs each year if the cost of housing was more manageable.”

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Member workshops- Future of London Retail

The following workshops will be held through November and December. We will be exploring some of the specific issues facing members in this space, work already being done locally or in silos and how that can be scaled up as best-practice across the capital. We’ll also look at any further interventions or policy change needed on a pan-London basis.

If you are interested in participating in any (or all) of these workshops, please contact your member manager or email Matt Hill. If you would really like to take part but cannot attend on the given dates, please let us know and we can try to work around it as we’re keen to get as much input as possible.

  • Skills: A retail-specific evidence session for the Skills Commission – 16:00-17:30, Mon 11th Dec
  • Tech: Digital and regulatory infrastructure for innovative retail – 16:00-17:30, Thu 16th Nov
  • Roads: Making London’s roads work for retail – 16:00-17:30, Mon 20th Nov
  • Strategy: Retail and town centres in the London Plan – Tue 5th Dec, 16:00-17:30
  • Place-making: the creation of mixed and sustainable retail destinations – Thu 30th Nov, 16:00-17:30
  • Adaptation: Addressing planning barriers to High Street and store transformation – Thu 23rd Nov, 16:00-17:30
  • International: Attracting overseas shoppers and retail investment – early 2018 tbc


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Take Me to the River

Stuart Fraser

Partner, Make Architects

As London’s ongoing housing shortage intensifies, so do calls for densification, particularly in the form of mixed use schemes. Flats set over supermarkets have already gained traction, and there’s a growing push to integrate new homes into transport hubs and stadium redevelopments, as we’ve seen at a number of Crossrail stations and at Watford Football Club.

Making the most of London’s limited land requires ever-more creative thinking. I suggest we turn our attention to the riverside, which is home to many industrial sites ripe for development. A number of riverside schemes – like Butler’s Wharf – have successfully transformed derelict warehouses and factory buildings into residential developments. But what if we looked beyond disused docksides and began incorporating housing into functioning ones?

There’s great potential for this in London’s safeguarded wharves – active docksides legally shielded from the ongoing containerisation and construction of deeper docks to the east that have made many commercial wharves extinct. Safeguarding these sites protects them against change of use, and ensures London’s waterways can be harnessed for passenger and freight transport – a key step towards reducing our dependency on road haulage and cutting carbon emissions.

As of 2017, London has 50 safeguarded wharves, 28 of which are upstream of the Thames Barrier.  Is it possible to retain these sites’ industrial use while also incorporating housing?

There’s certainly potential for development atop the large-scale depots dotting the Thames. The principles of this are no different than constructing over a large supermarket box; a structural transfer deck could facilitate horizontal use separation, with residences overtop benefitting from excellent views. Waste transfer stations also have scope to host residential additions. You can see this in action at Battersea Power Station’s Cringle Dock, where a transfer station is currently being rebuilt in an inventive new form so that residential buildings wrap around it. This form visually conceals the transfer station, and controls associated dust, noise and hazards.

Diversifying the uses of these sites will do more than just add much-needed homes; it will help regenerate whole neighbourhoods. Many safeguarded wharves have the potential to support riverboat hubs that link in with key transport nodes across the city – hubs that could quite literally put these communities on the map. By building on the existing uses of safeguarded wharves and integrating high-quality public and private elements, we can ensure they serve a wider segment of the community, from workers and residents to commuters and passers-by. Smart densification starts with this kind of big-picture thinking.


Stuart has been a partner at Make since 2004 and works across a variety of sectors, from residential to commercial to hotels and resorts. He’s passionate about embedding sustainable principles into architecture and has achieved a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating for many of the projects he’s led, as well as planning permission for the first zero-carbon home in the North West of England. Stuart is a Wren Technical Forum contributor and a regular guest speaker at conferences and educational establishments in the UK and overseas.


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London vulnerable to brain drain of EU millennials as many consider leaving the capital

  • Nearly two thirds (64%) of London’s under 30, high-skilled EU nationals are considering leaving the UK in the next five years – adding to a significant skills shortage in the capital. –This is significantly higher than the 42% who say the same across the rest of UK
  • Already, there are 30,000 vacancies in London where no applicants have the requisite skills
  • London First are launching the London Employment and Skills Commission – made up of the city’s business leaders – to find solutions to this impending crisis

Almost two-thirds (64%) of the young, highly skilled EU nationals working in London are considering leaving in the next five years, according to research from London First and Deloitte.

London’s businesses are seriously concerned about this potential talent flight as EU migrants play a crucial role in the city’s economy, with 13% of London’s workforce born in other EU countries.[1]

Any loss of highly skilled EU migrants will add to London’s existing skills challenges. Already, there are 30,000 vacancies in London where none of the applicants have the requisite skills.[2]

In addition, there are currently 300,000 people in London who don’t have the necessary skills to find a job, and another quarter of a million held back from progressing in the workplace by lack of skills.[3]

To help tackle this skills crisis, London First are launching the London Employment and Skills Commission. It will identify ways in which business, government and skills providers can work more effectively together to give more Londoners the skills that employers need, now and in the future. It releases initial findings and a call for evidence today

The Commission is made up of top business leaders in London. Members include John Allan, Chairman of London First, Tesco and Barratt Developments; John Holland Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow Airport; and Angus Knowles-Cutler, London Senior Partner and Vice Chairman of Deloitte.

John Allan, Chairman of London First, said: “We have launched this commission because the skills shortage in London is approaching a tipping point, unless we do better at building local skills and we remain up to top talent from the EU. London’s workers are the UK’s taxpayers and they generate demand far beyond the capital – this is a national issue. As a community, we must find practical business solutions to the city’s skills shortage. Our Commission will look at where business and Government must invest to ensure we have the workforce the city needs.”

Angus Knowles-Cutler, London Senior Partner and Vice Chairman at Deloitte, said: “The good news is that our wider survey also canvassed highly skilled workers outside the United Kingdom. Among this group, the UK remains the most attractive destination for talented people, well ahead of the US, Australia and Canada. London is also seen as the most desirable city and a significant draw for overseas talent in its own right. So with the right immigration policy, combined with an urgent effort to give Londoners the right skills to fill gaps in the workforce, there are solutions.”

The London Employment and Skills Commission

  • Chairman – John Allan, Chairman of London First
  • Construction/ Property – Mark Reynolds, CEO, Mace
  • Finance – Edward Thurman, Managing Director Financial Institutions, Lloyds Banking Group
  • Professional Services – Angus Knowles-Cutler, London Senior Partner and Vice Chairman, Deloitte
  • Retail – Natasha Adams, People Director UK and Ireland, Tesco
  • Digital – Russ Shaw, Tech London Advocates
  • Hospitality – Chris Vaughan, General Counsel, Whitbread
  • Transport – John Holland Kaye, CEO, Heathrow
  • FE/Training – Sir Frank McLoughlin, ex-City & Islington College Principal
  • Infrastructure – Rachel White, Regional Managing Director for Europe, CH2M
  • Economic/Political – Bob Bischof, Vice President of the German British Chamber of Industry & Commerce

(Source: Deloitte 2017)

About Deloitte’s research
Deloitte’s figures used in the Skills and Employment Commission publication are a new London-specific cut of survey data conducted for the firm’s report Power up – the UK workplace (published in June 2017).

This report surveyed 2,242 non-UK workers across nine economic sectors, and split evenly between higher and lower skills respondents, and between EU nationals (from Germany, France, Italy, Ireland and Poland) and non-EU nationals (from the US, South Africa, Australia and India).



[3] ONS

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