Professional services is frequently overlooked
As the independent voice of professional services to Government, the Forum has observed a material gap between the actual and perceived size and impact of the UK’s largest sector – professional services - and its multiplier effect on the economy and exports. As a result, the sector is frequently overlooked in policy making, and there is often a lack of recognition and goodwill towards an admittedly complex sector.
Historically, the sector was happy to serve its clients, train young professionals and pay its share of taxes in relative obscurity. However, in the light of clear evidence from Birmingham Business School et al that the sector is far more exposed to a hard Brexit than financial services, the Forum believes that it is no longer appropriate for the UK’s largest and arguably most successful sector to be overlooked.
Setting the record straight
The Forum aims to set the record straight by enhancing the profile and reputation of the sector and making it a more attractive proposition for policymakers, businesses and individuals. We will be highlighting the vital contribution of the sector in three critical areas:
- UK Economy: The Forum suspects that professional services represents closer to 20% of UK GDP compared with 11% under ONS metrics, and is highly productive using employee engagement levels as a surrogate. For example, most professional services to the construction sector are classified by ONS as construction; and most professional services embedded in manufacturing supply chains are treated as part of the output from those supply chains. A recent paper from Ingo Borchert of UKTPO calculates that the Mode 5 contribution to manufacturing exports from services organisations is worth £50bn GVA annually. There is also debate over suitable metrics for measuring productivity in services businesses in the absence of measurable capital investment. We are interested in instructing researchers and economists to work with ONS to arrive at a rigorous sector definition, model revenues & headcount, and work with members of the Consultancy Procurement Council to derive the multiplier for the value delivered by the sector to its clients. This exercise should enable us to assess and promote the true contribution of the sector to the UK economy.
- Local Communities: The Forum aims to bring together local leaders of mid-market organisations from every sector across the UK to explore ways to boost productivity and adopt new technologies.
- Public Life: Following the ‘Professions for Good’ campaigns of 2010/12, the Professional Associations Research Network (PARN) is developing a project on Promoting Professionalism that is likely to lead to a follow-up campaign in 2018/19 that highlights the contribution of all professions to trust in society and raising the quality of public life. Specific contributions to public life will include subjects such as volunteering, social mobility, ethics, access to justice. General contributions to public life are founded on the role of professional bodies and others in developing, maintaining and regulating standards of practice to support the exercise of technical and ethical competence in all activities of professionals, including professional services delivery.