A few weeks ago, as CEO of UnderPinned, I was able to announce a partnership with Universities across the UK – including Birkbeck, London Metropolitan, Kingston, Manchester Metropolitan, Birmingham, Twickenham, Swansea, and University of the Arts London – to allow 170,000 students the opportunity to access to our online platform for freelancers, free of charge.
Our platform has already helped thousands of freelancers kick start a career working for themselves and is now seeking to support students to commercialise their skills in the same way.
The work being done to increase education across the freelance economy is only just starting.
Last week, we were able to celebrate establishment of the Association for the Future of Work (AFW) – launched with a fresh set of policy ambitions to simplify tax, make it easier to move internationally for work, build the right supporting infrastructure such as standardised contracts, as well as improve education at all levels, to ensure working in the freelance economy is accessible to all.
This means providing education not just for students, but for anyone seeking out freelance work – regardless of their background, gender, race, age or disability.
Through a roundtable session we hosted with several dozen industry leaders last week, including the UK’s Small Business Commissioner, the AFW was able to map out a route towards setting a framework to deal with the issues faced by freelancers – placing significant emphasis on what needs to be done to facilitate a discussion around the importance to educate freelancers and businesses on open talent. One of the goals of the session going into it, was to set the basis for policy recommendations, essential in supporting open talent, with an explicit focus on small business education and how to access this.
Our discussions led us to the conclusion that educators across all levels – whether this be in schools, universities or even within the workplace – need to help inspire and drive change across the ways businesses and educational institutions are approaching guidance on ways of working, in order to help overcome any apprehension an individual may face, when making the decision to pollenate their skills sets through engaging with work opportunities in the freelance economy.
Afterall, businesses equally benefit from a workforce full of blended and hybridised talent.
According to data from the World Economic Forum, 65% of children currently in primary school will enter jobs yet to be invented, given the constantly evolving face of technology and the role it plays in our approach to ways of working.
Being diligent towards the change in dynamics, which set the foundations for how we work as individuals and collectively, is crucial. Providing education on what is necessary in order to set a framework, steering the course of direction for guidance on policy around the future of work of businesses therefore needs to be informed and representative.
Our shared ambition for the AFW is that it can act as the treasurer for change in this space – coordinating the views of many into a codified framework to deal with simplifying the tax and employment status of freelance workers, as well as standardising contracts and terms for enterprises, SMEs and freelancers.
There is still a lot of work to be done to get us to a place where everyone involved in the freelance economy feels secure and safeguarded. But I believe the work the AFW will do is going to shift the dial on what, up until now, has been a fleeting discussion on the potential for what a braided workforce of the future can look like, here in the UK.
Pushing for positive and impactful changes to policy guidance that, at present, fails to recognise the astronomical changes we’ve witnessed in ways of working, experienced through our progression into a modern globalised workforce, is the only way towards success.
By Albert Azis-Clauson, Chair of the AFW