As part of a series of interviews with Festival of Work exhibitors, we speak to the Open University’s Head of Marketing – B2B, Felicity Soper about why she’s excited about being at 2019’s Festival of Work:
Q: You’re an exhibitor at next June’s Festival of Work, but this isn’t the first involvement you’ve had with the CIPD is it?
A: That’s right. We’ve been working with the CIPD closely now for the last four or so years – including being the main sponsor of its annual conference. This is the space we’ve really felt we’ve wanted to be in because even though the Open University is a brand that’s more than 50 years old, there are lots of organisations out there that still don’t know we’re open to businesses as well as the public. We have a mission to be the UK’s number one training provider, and we see our partnership with the CIPD as giving us the ability to raise our brand and raise our profile.
Q: Where do conferences like Festival of Work sit in your pecking order of events to attend?
A: Obviously, being part of a big conference is a massive commitment, and we need to be able to show ROI. Because we lack a traditional bricks and mortar presence, events are essential, and most of the other ones we do are smaller, and regional – like the six National Apprenticeship shows that happen throughout the year and around the UK. Last year was one of the busiest CIPD conferences ever, because the Apprenticeship Levy was new, and because lots of businesses needed our help explaining it. The Festival of Work idea is unique, and in celebrating people’s contribution to work, it dovetails exactly with what we believe in, in terms of learning and development.
Q: What are you especially looking forward to?
A: Visitor numbers and the calibre of people that will come are clearly what’s important to us – we can reach high numbers of excellent leads in a compressed period. But more than this, we’re excited because of the co-locating of the Learning & Development Show and HR Software & Recruitment Show. We think it will widen the net of visitors, and we specifically want to reach out to more IT directors, because it’s a sector we have more learning in. It’s almost like Festival of Work gives us an opportunity to market ourselves at a departmental level.
Q: How do you think your business dovetails into the new Festival of Work format?
A: Really well. We work with businesses and HRDs to promote staff retention through up-skilling via accredited courses. If companies have identified skills gaps, we can help them with a portfolio of learning – from MBAs, down to apprenticeships. Over time we aspire to being able to design bespoke packages for organisations, so this sits squarely into the broader debate about skills and what competencies will be needed in the future.
Q: How do you see the future of work changing, and what is the OU’s role in it?
A: We’re in very interesting times. Look at all the academic material out there, and the one constant is that organisations will continually need to be more ‘agile’ – that is respond faster to changes in working practices, business models, or changes in their customer base. For businesses, knowing how they can best prepare for this is crucial. We believe it’s people’s ability to up-skill themselves, and make themselves relevant that is the key to future business success.
Q: How else to you think learning is going to change?
A: Without doubt, by doing more learning on the job. Practice-based learning is the most effective learning out there. All of our courses can be entirely work-based if they need to be, and we believe this style of learning is definitely the future. This reality needs communicating more and more to businesses, as competition for skills is only set to increase.
About the Festival of Work:
The CIPD’s Festival of Work (12-13 June 2019, Olympia London, www.festivalofwork.com) promises to be a landmark event for both people professionals and business leaders. By focusing on the most innovative strategies in management, technology and learning, the festival will help you, and 7,000 of your colleagues, to harness the latest transformations and drive a human future of work. With 7,000+ attendees, 130+ inspiring speakers, filled with inspirational live experiences and challenging ideas, it’s the ultimate celebration of people in the workplace.
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