Most people's only glimpse of political party conferences are snippets of leaders' speeches on the news. These events, however, aren't just echo chambers for the faithful. They're real conferences with open debates about key issues affecting everyone in the country: from helping people into work to the framework how we're governed. That's why every year we sponsor panels at both the government's and official opposition's party conferences.
In 2023 they felt even more relevant, with the prospect of a general election either renewing the current Government's mandate or putting a new party in power. The speakers at this year's panels did include members of their respective parties, but they also welcomed contributions from independent organisations, including the University of Cambridge's Bennett Institute for Public Policy and our own experts. Our Conservative Conference panel on the future of apprenticeships included Steve Rotheram, Labour's Metro Mayor for Liverpool.
Sponsoring and participating in these conversations is a key part of our strategy for delivering the most up to date insight and guidance to our clients. This year Simon Christian went to the Labour Party Conference to learn more about their policy idea for devolution in England, while Justin Rix discussed degree apprenticeships at the Conservative Party Conference.
Read Simon's and Justin's reflections on two very different panels and watch full videos of the debates.
Simon Christian on plans for English devolution (Labour)
At the 2023 Labour Party Conference in Liverpool we co-hosted a panel event to discuss how a potential future Labour government could deepen and extend regional devolution across England.
- Paula Barker MP, Shadow Minister for Devolution and the English Regions
- Simon Christian, Director, Public Sector Consulting, Grant Thornton
- Richard Parker, Labour and Co-op Candidate for West Midlands Mayor
- Akash Paun, Programme Director at the Institute for Government
- Jack Shaw, Affiliate Researcher at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy, University of Cambridge Jessica Studdert, Deputy Chief Executive of New Local
This panel was chaired by Emma Norris, Deputy Director of the Institute for Government.
You can listen to the full panel conversation here
For more insight and guidance, get in touch with Simon Christian.
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Justin Rix on delivering degree apprenticeships (Conservatives)
The UK has a significant skills shortage in key areas, including technology and sustainability. Degree apprenticeships are a huge opportunity to encourage employers to invest more in their people and reduce skills shortages, but it's a route that's under-valued due to misconceptions that they're only aimed at school-leavers or are less esteemed that academic qualifications. Our panel at the Conservative Party Conference discussed how to increase participation in degree and higher-level apprenticeships.
- Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP, Secretary of State for Education
- Malcom Press CBE, Vice Chancellor at Manchester Metropolitan University
- Steve Rotheram, Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region
- David Goodhart, Head of Demography, Immigration, and Integration, Policy Exchange
- Justin Rix, Partner, Head of People Advisory, Grant Thornton
We all agreed that apprenticeships were a great tool for addressing skills shortages, introducing young people into the workplace, and raising the status of vocational training. They noted the relative lack of investment in skills throughout the UK in comparison to other developed countries and agreed that employers should be encouraged to invest more in their people. There was a real consensus around the key role that apprenticeships can play in filling critical skills gaps and driving productivity gains.
You can watch the full panel conversation here.
You can stay informed on apprenticeships and training by visiting our future skills hub →
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For more insight and guidance, get in touch with Justin Rix.