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How hundo’s Career CoPilot helps small businesses and their future talent with Liz Barclay and Esther O'Callaghan OBE

Liz Barclay, UK Small Business Commissioner and Esther O'Callaghan OBE explain how tech, like hundo's Career CoPilot can transform the landscape for small businesses and help young people with their career path.

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Esther O'Callaghan OBE: So, delighted to be joined by a great friend and colleague, Liz Barclay, UK Small Business Commissioner and also Fair by Design campaign. Obviously, today at hundo, we're launching the AI Career CoPilot, the purpose of which is to help young people, parents, educators and employers start to have better real time access to the types of roles, skills, companies, um, that are available, um, to young people as they're starting to transition, um, from education into work. Um, for, for me and Liz, I think we come from a generation where we didn't have access to an AI Career CoPilot, and I think therefore have had, uh, what's known as squiggly careers, uh, and I, uh, thought it'd be, uh, That'd be quite nice, uh, to hear from you, Liz, on a little bit about your career journey, uh, first.

Liz Barclay: I haven't thought about it as squiggly. That's actually quite a good word. I have to say there was no access to AI. Definitely not. That's absolutely true. But there was very little access to any kind of career coaching of any sort. My career coach was the maths mistress. And what she knew about careers wasn't.
Anything like what you knew about maths. So, uh, as a result, we kind of had no idea what was out there. And I think that's part of the problem, isn't it? You tend to, you go for what you know, uh, and if nobody else tells you there's lots of other options, then it just doesn't occur to you. And of course, uh, I am of that generation where we were doing RSA computing and learning about how to write code and so on and so forth and thinking, what on earth are we doing this for? Because we're never going to have to use this. I'm actually looking at it now. It would have been exactly the right thing to do. Because of all those wonderful careers. And career opportunities that there are right there and I, but I mean, I was much more likely to end up as a loo cleaner than I was as a coder.

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: I think I did do that as a job for a while. I know. Yeah, it's, I mean, it's quite incredible because I was thinking back, um, you know, obviously the, you know, everything that we build into hundo is about trying to address the critical pain points. You know, the young people experience, um, and increasingly we're seeing it on the employer side as well, because obviously there's a critical skill shortage and a deficit for businesses, which, which kind of, you know, feeds into what you were just saying about, um, you can have, you know, bad careers advice, uh, and that as a young person can set you off on a completely incorrect trajectory if you get on a trajectory at all.
Um, but equally. On the other side, the pain point is with employers going, there's these young people leaving education and they, they don't know what they want to do. You know, they don't know what the jobs are. They get into a company and they don't have the skills. And so I think, you know, even, even just like beyond coding, like you were saying that we see teamwork collaboration, you know, critical thinking, and you know, these are consistently things employers.
So they can't find obviously in your role as um, small business commissioner, you obviously interact a lot with small businesses across the UK and appreciate not on the skills agenda, but, but clearly, you know, do you have a, you know, from your sort of, you know, informal viewpoint when you're, when you're working with companies, what are you seeing?

Liz Barclay: Um, If I just take a step back, I came from a small business background. You know, I grew up in a small business family. I had a grandfather who was a builder and an uncle who had a house building company and a great aunt who had a corner shop. My parents were farmers, you know, for me actually thinking about being.
Uh, running my own business was a real opportunity. Uh, and what I think is, uh, when I talk to small businesses, a lot of them have come to small businesses themselves, uh, as a career option, but out of employment, perhaps that they found hugely unsatisfactory and really restrictive and restricting. But I'm also finding a lot of small business owners that are saying, nobody ever thinks about coming to work for small businesses. They all want to work for a big business. They're all being channeled to go and work for these big household names and big brands. And one of the problems that small businesses have is that they can't afford to compete in the way uh, that they might do with salaries that school leavers and so on might expect.
Um, but they offer really different, they're a different feel. You know, they're small, they're caring, they're family. They're, uh, most often purpose led. And I think a lot of young people would really like to work for those kind of ethical, purpose led small businesses. But how do you get that, how do you bridge that gap?
And also, one of the things you may know, I mean, you know, but I've been a broadcaster for years and years and years, and when I first started, In broadcasting, which was never something that was on the agenda as far as career thinking at school was concerned. But when I first started, one of the first people that I interviewed was this amazing Australian guy who was running one of the careers and skills organizations for the UK. And he said to me then, and this is about 25 years ago, um, there is the problem is there is no interaction between the education system and industry. So. Education doesn't know what to be teaching people to do, so that when the employers pick them up, they're not, you know, they don't have the right skills, but that's even more of a problem for the small businesses.
The big businesses can afford to upskill them, retraining, etc. The small businesses quite often can't do that. And so there's a real, there's a real bridge that we need to build there, and hopefully, I'm hoping your tool's going to be able to do that, and your platform is going to be able to do that. 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Yeah, I mean, it was designed for that purpose, you know, certainly from, you know, from when we started hundo, you know It's kind of where we are now. It's always been the SME sector that kind of and in many ways almost get it a lot more because exactly for the reasons that you say they are feeling those pain points and they need and you know greater visibility to young people, you know, and that's kind of so that you know I think that is interesting and I think you're spot on. It's I certainly, you know, with young people that I know that I work with, they are looking outside of that more sort of corporate landscape and more into, and also a lot of small businesses, like you said, they are local, aren't they? So you don't have to, 

Liz Barclay: that was exactly what I wanted to add there because I think they know what's going on in their local communities, etc.
Yeah. And when I've been running small business and looking to take people on and give them opportunities and maybe internships and paid, I always paid the interns. Um, I've always been fascinated to see who is out there who wouldn't normally be able to get into broadcast production or whatever it might be and, and go out and look for people for whom that there was no career path into it and be able to say, you know, come and join us, see what you think. Spend 10 weeks with us and see if that, if it works for you and it works for some and it doesn't work for others and that's great because you've got a, you've got much more experience as well. It's harder to do that now, I think. I honestly think it's harder to, you know, big companies have all sorts of processes you've got to go through. You can't do work experience. But the other thing for me is sometimes work experience that's not paid is only available to people whose parents can pay. I can pay the travel expenses and can feed them while they're on a work experience and that is difficult 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: for me. Yeah, and again, it's kind of, it's one of the reasons, you know, why the sort of virtual work experiences which are, you know, product based learning employer validated have become so important because for a small business, even if they want to support young people in work, they only have maybe, what, one to five jobs or, you know, there isn't an exponential number. But the value of being able to work on those programs, um, you know, online, uh, you know, is incredibly valuable, even if you don't end up working for that employer to be able to get into an industry, especially when even like broadcasting, like you said, because it's not the most straightforward route. Um,

Liz Barclay: no, it's not, but actually it's not the kind of thing you're going to know. You're not going to know who all the job opportunities are because not everybody's going to end up in front of a microphone or a camera, but so many opportunities behind the scenes, lots and lots of different roles. Uh, but you don't know about them unless you're in there finding out what is available.

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: I think for us as well it's, you know, what my, what my hope is. With the Career CoPilot is the ability, you know, the more, um, that we, the more that we interact with young people while they're still in education. Um, it's not just about helping them make career choices. It's about helping them make, um, better educational choices based on the skills and the types of industries that are going to be available to them.
Um, I was talking to, um, Uh, one of the professors at University of Strathclyde and they were saying like in the UK Um, there's something like 24, 000, you know law students or you know, something like that But there's only like 5, 000 jobs So, you know, even even students with degrees, you know They need to understand that there are multiple industries that they can go and work in it's not binary You know just because they've done law they then have to go and work in law And and I think that's some of the you know, certainly from you know From my perspective what i've seen is like that's some of the richness of having, like, real time, um, access to job data, you know, that we're starting to see now.

So, following the post from Laura Jane Rawlings today, who heads up Youth Employment UK, talking about the fact that there are now, uh, it's Joseph Rowntree, uh, stats, actually, that there are now 14.4 million families in the UK living, uh, below the poverty line. Um, as chair of the Fair By Design campaign. Um, can you talk a little bit about the need to upscale, um, and, and reskill, uh, to tackle the poverty premium, um, through the development of career readiness for young people? 

Liz Barclay: Just to give you a bit of background, the Fair By Design campaign is aiming to get rid of the extra costs of being poor. Now, uh, the extra costs are things like having to use a prepayment meter, having to pay your insurance in a monthly on a monthly basis because you can't afford to pay the whole thing at once and so you end up paying more So for something like transport for instance if you want to get to work chances are you're going to not be able to afford a season ticket And you're gonna have to pay by the day and that's going to work out more expensive and we really need to get to the bottom of that and understand why people on the lower income are actually paying more for the services that are essential and that people on higher incomes can, you know, afford to pay through direct debits and get discounts.
So we've got to tackle that. And I think that, um, we have to tackle that in order to help people to take up some of the job opportunities in the first place. But we also have to tackle low paid jobs. Um, there's no point in creating jobs in this country, if they're poor quality jobs. and really low paid jobs.
Uh, we've got to be able to put we've got to enable the small firms to put more investment into upscaling people too, so that they can earn better wages, etc. So, it's, it's about, I think having a, a, an employment and industrial strategy. Uh, an enterprise strategy across the UK that will make it a really, really good place.
And this is what the government wants to do, to make it a really good place to start up and run a business, to create those jobs. Because the small businesses, let's face it, are the most creative and innovative in the world, probably, in the UK. And we want them to be able to offer the most brilliant jobs to young people coming out of schools.
Further education, colleges, universities, uh, to be able to compete on the world stage to export, to trade, uh, but we really need good quality jobs that are reasonably paid so that people can, you know, pay their bills and aren't struggling to make ends meet because their income is too low to be able to take advantage of that way to pay less for essential services.

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Yeah, I think that's, that's certainly, you know, chimes with, with my view. I see a lot, um, about young people talking about side hustles and, you know, and, and kind of gig economy. And I think it hides a very inconvenient truth, which is that young people are actually forced to have multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Um, and I think hopefully. With the Career CoPilot, we can help young people navigate past some of that low pay, um, and into jobs that actually, um, can give them a living, yeah, a living wage. So, um, great. Well, Liz, thank you so much, uh, for being with us today. I know you're incredibly busy, so I really appreciate it. And, uh, I look forward to catching up with you soon.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: So, delighted to be joined by a great friend and colleague, Liz Barclay, UK Small Business Commissioner and also Fair by Design campaign. Obviously, today at hundo, we're launching the AI Career CoPilot, the purpose of which is to help young people, parents, educators and employers start to have better real time access to the types of roles, skills, companies, um, that are available, um, to young people as they're starting to transition, um, from education into work. Um, for, for me and Liz, I think we come from a generation where we didn't have access to an AI Career CoPilot, and I think therefore have had, uh, what's known as squiggly careers, uh, and I, uh, thought it'd be, uh, That'd be quite nice, uh, to hear from you, Liz, on a little bit about your career journey, uh, first.

Liz Barclay: I haven't thought about it as squiggly. That's actually quite a good word. I have to say there was no access to AI. Definitely not. That's absolutely true. But there was very little access to any kind of career coaching of any sort. My career coach was the maths mistress. And what she knew about careers wasn't.
Anything like what you knew about maths. So, uh, as a result, we kind of had no idea what was out there. And I think that's part of the problem, isn't it? You tend to, you go for what you know, uh, and if nobody else tells you there's lots of other options, then it just doesn't occur to you. And of course, uh, I am of that generation where we were doing RSA computing and learning about how to write code and so on and so forth and thinking, what on earth are we doing this for? Because we're never going to have to use this. I'm actually looking at it now. It would have been exactly the right thing to do. Because of all those wonderful careers. And career opportunities that there are right there and I, but I mean, I was much more likely to end up as a loo cleaner than I was as a coder.

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: I think I did do that as a job for a while. I know. Yeah, it's, I mean, it's quite incredible because I was thinking back, um, you know, obviously the, you know, everything that we build into hundo is about trying to address the critical pain points. You know, the young people experience, um, and increasingly we're seeing it on the employer side as well, because obviously there's a critical skill shortage and a deficit for businesses, which, which kind of, you know, feeds into what you were just saying about, um, you can have, you know, bad careers advice, uh, and that as a young person can set you off on a completely incorrect trajectory if you get on a trajectory at all.
Um, but equally. On the other side, the pain point is with employers going, there's these young people leaving education and they, they don't know what they want to do. You know, they don't know what the jobs are. They get into a company and they don't have the skills. And so I think, you know, even, even just like beyond coding, like you were saying that we see teamwork collaboration, you know, critical thinking, and you know, these are consistently things employers.
So they can't find obviously in your role as um, small business commissioner, you obviously interact a lot with small businesses across the UK and appreciate not on the skills agenda, but, but clearly, you know, do you have a, you know, from your sort of, you know, informal viewpoint when you're, when you're working with companies, what are you seeing?

Liz Barclay: Um, If I just take a step back, I came from a small business background. You know, I grew up in a small business family. I had a grandfather who was a builder and an uncle who had a house building company and a great aunt who had a corner shop. My parents were farmers, you know, for me actually thinking about being.
Uh, running my own business was a real opportunity. Uh, and what I think is, uh, when I talk to small businesses, a lot of them have come to small businesses themselves, uh, as a career option, but out of employment, perhaps that they found hugely unsatisfactory and really restrictive and restricting. But I'm also finding a lot of small business owners that are saying, nobody ever thinks about coming to work for small businesses. They all want to work for a big business. They're all being channeled to go and work for these big household names and big brands. And one of the problems that small businesses have is that they can't afford to compete in the way uh, that they might do with salaries that school leavers and so on might expect.
Um, but they offer really different, they're a different feel. You know, they're small, they're caring, they're family. They're, uh, most often purpose led. And I think a lot of young people would really like to work for those kind of ethical, purpose led small businesses. But how do you get that, how do you bridge that gap?
And also, one of the things you may know, I mean, you know, but I've been a broadcaster for years and years and years, and when I first started, In broadcasting, which was never something that was on the agenda as far as career thinking at school was concerned. But when I first started, one of the first people that I interviewed was this amazing Australian guy who was running one of the careers and skills organizations for the UK. And he said to me then, and this is about 25 years ago, um, there is the problem is there is no interaction between the education system and industry. So. Education doesn't know what to be teaching people to do, so that when the employers pick them up, they're not, you know, they don't have the right skills, but that's even more of a problem for the small businesses.
The big businesses can afford to upskill them, retraining, etc. The small businesses quite often can't do that. And so there's a real, there's a real bridge that we need to build there, and hopefully, I'm hoping your tool's going to be able to do that, and your platform is going to be able to do that. 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Yeah, I mean, it was designed for that purpose, you know, certainly from, you know, from when we started hundo, you know It's kind of where we are now. It's always been the SME sector that kind of and in many ways almost get it a lot more because exactly for the reasons that you say they are feeling those pain points and they need and you know greater visibility to young people, you know, and that's kind of so that you know I think that is interesting and I think you're spot on. It's I certainly, you know, with young people that I know that I work with, they are looking outside of that more sort of corporate landscape and more into, and also a lot of small businesses, like you said, they are local, aren't they? So you don't have to, 

Liz Barclay: that was exactly what I wanted to add there because I think they know what's going on in their local communities, etc.
Yeah. And when I've been running small business and looking to take people on and give them opportunities and maybe internships and paid, I always paid the interns. Um, I've always been fascinated to see who is out there who wouldn't normally be able to get into broadcast production or whatever it might be and, and go out and look for people for whom that there was no career path into it and be able to say, you know, come and join us, see what you think. Spend 10 weeks with us and see if that, if it works for you and it works for some and it doesn't work for others and that's great because you've got a, you've got much more experience as well. It's harder to do that now, I think. I honestly think it's harder to, you know, big companies have all sorts of processes you've got to go through. You can't do work experience. But the other thing for me is sometimes work experience that's not paid is only available to people whose parents can pay. I can pay the travel expenses and can feed them while they're on a work experience and that is difficult 

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: for me. Yeah, and again, it's kind of, it's one of the reasons, you know, why the sort of virtual work experiences which are, you know, product based learning employer validated have become so important because for a small business, even if they want to support young people in work, they only have maybe, what, one to five jobs or, you know, there isn't an exponential number. But the value of being able to work on those programs, um, you know, online, uh, you know, is incredibly valuable, even if you don't end up working for that employer to be able to get into an industry, especially when even like broadcasting, like you said, because it's not the most straightforward route. Um,

Liz Barclay: no, it's not, but actually it's not the kind of thing you're going to know. You're not going to know who all the job opportunities are because not everybody's going to end up in front of a microphone or a camera, but so many opportunities behind the scenes, lots and lots of different roles. Uh, but you don't know about them unless you're in there finding out what is available.

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: I think for us as well it's, you know, what my, what my hope is. With the Career CoPilot is the ability, you know, the more, um, that we, the more that we interact with young people while they're still in education. Um, it's not just about helping them make career choices. It's about helping them make, um, better educational choices based on the skills and the types of industries that are going to be available to them.
Um, I was talking to, um, Uh, one of the professors at University of Strathclyde and they were saying like in the UK Um, there's something like 24, 000, you know law students or you know, something like that But there's only like 5, 000 jobs So, you know, even even students with degrees, you know They need to understand that there are multiple industries that they can go and work in it's not binary You know just because they've done law they then have to go and work in law And and I think that's some of the you know, certainly from you know From my perspective what i've seen is like that's some of the richness of having, like, real time, um, access to job data, you know, that we're starting to see now.

So, following the post from Laura Jane Rawlings today, who heads up Youth Employment UK, talking about the fact that there are now, uh, it's Joseph Rowntree, uh, stats, actually, that there are now 14.4 million families in the UK living, uh, below the poverty line. Um, as chair of the Fair By Design campaign. Um, can you talk a little bit about the need to upscale, um, and, and reskill, uh, to tackle the poverty premium, um, through the development of career readiness for young people? 

Liz Barclay: Just to give you a bit of background, the Fair By Design campaign is aiming to get rid of the extra costs of being poor. Now, uh, the extra costs are things like having to use a prepayment meter, having to pay your insurance in a monthly on a monthly basis because you can't afford to pay the whole thing at once and so you end up paying more So for something like transport for instance if you want to get to work chances are you're going to not be able to afford a season ticket And you're gonna have to pay by the day and that's going to work out more expensive and we really need to get to the bottom of that and understand why people on the lower income are actually paying more for the services that are essential and that people on higher incomes can, you know, afford to pay through direct debits and get discounts.
So we've got to tackle that. And I think that, um, we have to tackle that in order to help people to take up some of the job opportunities in the first place. But we also have to tackle low paid jobs. Um, there's no point in creating jobs in this country, if they're poor quality jobs. and really low paid jobs.
Uh, we've got to be able to put we've got to enable the small firms to put more investment into upscaling people too, so that they can earn better wages, etc. So, it's, it's about, I think having a, a, an employment and industrial strategy. Uh, an enterprise strategy across the UK that will make it a really, really good place.
And this is what the government wants to do, to make it a really good place to start up and run a business, to create those jobs. Because the small businesses, let's face it, are the most creative and innovative in the world, probably, in the UK. And we want them to be able to offer the most brilliant jobs to young people coming out of schools.
Further education, colleges, universities, uh, to be able to compete on the world stage to export, to trade, uh, but we really need good quality jobs that are reasonably paid so that people can, you know, pay their bills and aren't struggling to make ends meet because their income is too low to be able to take advantage of that way to pay less for essential services.

Esther O'Callaghan OBE: Yeah, I think that's, that's certainly, you know, chimes with, with my view. I see a lot, um, about young people talking about side hustles and, you know, and, and kind of gig economy. And I think it hides a very inconvenient truth, which is that young people are actually forced to have multiple jobs just to make ends meet. Um, and I think hopefully. With the Career CoPilot, we can help young people navigate past some of that low pay, um, and into jobs that actually, um, can give them a living, yeah, a living wage. So, um, great. Well, Liz, thank you so much, uh, for being with us today. I know you're incredibly busy, so I really appreciate it. And, uh, I look forward to catching up with you soon.

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