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Leading employers and schools tackle inequality at Form the Future’s Annual Conference

On 2nd December, leading businesses and schools attended Form the Future’s Annual Conference on inequality

Over 100 attendees heard from expert speakers and took part in a Q&A panel, before spending the afternoon continuing the discussion and debate in various workshop sessions.

The theme for the conference was around tackling inequality, and the role that business has to play in creating a fairer society – with particular emphasis on breaking down barriers to give opportunities to more young people, and create access to untapped talent for the region’s growing businesses.

The conference also presented a unique opportunity for businesses to learn about the efforts of local and regional government to develop a skilled workforce for the region, and networking opportunities with schools and like-minded businesses.

Keynote speaker Niamh Matthews, Head of Strategy and Programme at the Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), ddressed the audience and discussed the skills gap as a national priority. The partnership between the GCP and Form the Future looks to bridge that gap by bringing business and young people together.

Next to speak was Claire London, Programme Manager – Workforce, Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, System Delivery Unit, NHS – who announced that the NHS would be Form the Future’s first platinum partner, working together to improve access, develop a more diverse talent pool and support social mobility.

BBC radio presenter Chris Mann then lead a panel discussion where members of the audience were able to ask questions to industry experts – with the aim to spark discussion and debate.

Participants on the panel included Jane Paterson-Todd, CEO of Cambridge Ahead; Simon Humphrey, Senior Manager at Arm; Niamh Matthews, Head of Strategy and Partnership at the GCP; Fiona McGonigle, Business Skills Manager at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority; and Alistair Easterfield, Assistant Headteacher at the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology.

Key themes that arose from the debate were the need for business and individuals to get involved and volunteer their time to go into schools, and the importance of recognising the brilliance of every young person – which isn’t always academic – and how we can nurture their potential.

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Attendees then moved into workshop sessions, covering everything from equal access to skills, T-Levels and CSR; to apprenticeships, volunteering and the Gatsby Benchmarks.

Key takeaways from the workshops included the necessity of myth busting around apprenticeships and Form the Future’s work in this area; that we need to prepare primary aged children with skills for whatever their future careers may look like; the importance of giving people confidence to go into schools and volunteer; and that while resources are constrained everywhere – there is optimism, awareness and work taking place around reducing the inequality gap.

As the conference drew to a close – Form the Future were joined by Sarah Reakes from KISS Communications, to unveil visuals for an upcoming fundraising campaign. The campaign will look to broaden Form the Future’s reach, encourage corporate partnerships, and inspire more people to become supporters.

Anne Bailey, CEO of Form the Future, said: “Form the Future is really a network made up of schools, employers and government, so events like our annual conference are a great opportunity to bring everyone together, to share information, generate ideas and to create opportunities for young people across our region. Lots of people said this was our best conference yet.”

Form the Future also launched its new impact report for 2018-2019, which can be read in full here.

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  3. You can then sign up for volunteering opportunities at your leisure!


Our goal is that all young people move successfully from education into employment. As a social enterprise, we are reliant on grants and corporate funding in order to work with the schools across Cambridgeshire. Even the smallest donation helps us to provide careers inspiration for every child. Click below to find out more about what your donation could do for young people in your community.