It’s noon on Friday 30 March and I’m sitting with 300 business leaders in a historic railway building listening to Prime Minister Tony Blair at the seventh of his legacy tour lectures. Organised by the Work Foundation, it’s about the future of work.
The dialogue is dramatic. We’re hanging on every one of what could be some of the Prime Minister’s last words. He is asked the question, ‘What hope is there for a man in his fifties who is about to change his career?’ We laugh, but the questions are immense. What is good work, work-life balance, our future at work?
We are in Manchester’s amazing Museum of Science and Industry, an engineering archive of everything we’re in danger of forgetting, brimming with industry and innovation. It’s a perfect backdrop to a debate about how work is changing in unprecedented ways, with 80 per cent of us in the service sector, and 40 per cent of us in the knowledge economy.
The background music to the passionate commentary is the whirring of machinery from an age of industrial supremacy, while outside we can just hear the screeching of hundreds of schools kids. Tomorrow’s inventors are having lunch.
This is how much our world has changed. In the 1950s, seven out of ten men went home from work to have lunch with their wives. It doesn’t seem possible. Inspirational.