London is the high skills and ‘soft power’ capital of the world. Last week Deloitte published a new report – “Global cities, global talent” – which found London has added 235,000 high skill jobs since 2013, bringing the total number to 1.71 million and extending its lead over its nearest rival New York, which has a total of 1.16 million.
Our research also crowned London as the most global of global cities. Looking at the backgrounds of 50,000 business and public sector leaders around the world, we found that London’s ‘executive alumni’ – those who studied or worked here – can now be found in high profile positions in 134 countries, while the city plays host to business and public sector leaders from 95 countries, ahead of New York and Paris on both measures. London really is in a class of its own.
A big part of what helps a city on the global stage is the quality of its higher education and ability to equip young people with the skills to become the leaders of the future. London alone has 15 top-ranked universities, the largest of any of the global business hubs we looked at. Between them, Paris, London and New York have, respectively, the first, third and sixth best business schools. These are invaluable in attracting a wealth of international talent that can go on to be influential ambassadors for those cities.
To continue producing the business leaders of the future and help project soft power, universities must keep pace with the dynamic, technology-driven shifts occurring in the workplace. These will render large parts of current subject matter increasingly obsolete.
Businesses are looking for complex problem-solving, analytical reasoning, design and creativity skills in their future workforce. Higher education institutions must ensure they have a role in developing these skills, so their graduates enter the world of work with the skills the leaders of the future will need.
So how can universities go about this? In our report we argue for more dynamic executive education within existing or new business led-programmes. With upskilling during a career likely to become more prevalent in the future economy, not least as the automation of jobs takes hold, we also believe there is room for business leaders and educators to create high-skills apprenticeships to help move people between low and medium skill jobs and high skill jobs.
Higher education also has a role to play in addressing one of the more disappointing findings of our research – the proportion of executive alumni who are women. Just 10.5% of the business leaders who have studied or worked in London are women and the highest across the seven cities we looked at was 12% in Sydney. More work can surely be done before young women enter the world of work to ensure this is rebalanced.
So while these global cities, and London in particular, have a lot going for them, they cannot rest on their laurels. Businesses, governments and educators all have a role in continuing the flow of all of our talent, in all its diversity, into universities, on to the world of work and then up the corporate ladder. Working together they can ensure businesses have the skills they need for future growth and cities like London remain the beacons of the global economy and magnets for the brightest and best men and women.
This post was written by David Sproul, chief executive of Deloitte UK and NCUB leadership council member.