How to work with universities to unlock social mobility

Apr 18, 2024 | Diversity, Home Featured, Webinars

ISE’s webinar reveals best practice insights from employers, universities and students on unlocking social mobility, explains Jayne Cullen, independent freelance early in careers consultant.

ISE’s EDI sub-committee on social mobility hosted a follow-up webinar to How to put social mobility at the heart of future talent strategy.

Students from Good Work and the 93% club joined Tallulah Bygraves from Teach First, Penny Longman from UCL, Samantha Morley from Nottingham Trent University, Philip Wilson from Civil Service Fast Stream and Maria Donovan from Penna.

They offer best practice insights on working with universities and unlocking social mobility.

Civil Service Fast Stream
Civil Service Fast Stream has adapted some of its attraction strategy to focus on candidates from less advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds (LSEB). As a result, overall LSEB representation has been improving year-by-year in offers and hires.

Activity included:
• Geographic diversity with SEB as a focus – moving outside of London/SE for postings to support the levelling up agenda, targeting specific universities to attract people from under-represented areas and highlighting in role descriptions where they are based outside of London/SE.
• Trained hundreds of Fast Stream ambassadors to deliver both outreach activity and user generated video content to engage LSE groups.
• Use of diverse influencers in attraction campaigns
• Research with Bridge Group and other research agencies to look at both the recruitment and on-scheme experience of LSEB candidates and then unpicking these challenges to inform future changes
• Mentoring strategy has been heavily focussed on supporting LSEB candidates

Teach First
Teach First implemented a number of changes to their assessment process to improve outcomes for under-represented groups.

As a result, half of all trainees are now the first generation to go to uni, 23% are eligible for free school meals and 82% attended a non-fee-paying school.

Activity included:
• Implementing a contextual recruitment tool which produces RAG rating across different indicators to help understand which metrics give the best outcomes. This was a low-cost solution.
• Moving from assessment centres to development centres – stripping out competencies that were experience-based and more scenario-focused, looking for potential and not polish, removing leadership as a competency and giving candidates feedback to implement on the day.
• Supporting near misses from development centres – Giving conditional offers based on getting feedback, receiving tailored support and training and completing another exercise to re-assess candidates. To get this off the ground Teach First ran a pilot group for science and maths roles and the results showed equivalent quality and, in some years, higher performance amongst this group.

Top tips for employers on working with universities to unlock social mobility

1. Get to know the full range of diversity programmes that are already happening in your target unis as this webinar shows that there are different approaches across the HE landscape.

2. Invest time in building relationships with careers teams and be open about your objectives, so you can be made aware of relevant opportunities to engage with target groups of students.

3. Understand how employers can support (at both scale and in light touch ways) to build your brand authentically with LSE students. Students enjoyed meeting employers face to face, help with CVs and practicing interviews. Providing mentors are also valuable.

4. Successful interventions don’t always have to be costly for example contextual recruitment tools, using peers in careers to engage LSE students and employing student social media influencers.

5. Graduate Outcomes data is a good way to measure the success of LSEB careers performance – but this has a long time lag so embed shorter-term measures into each project or example qualitative evaluation pre and post programmes to measure progress.

6. Whether it’s a longer term programme or shorter term skills type workshop ensuring that students understand their next steps and how to get there is critical for success.

7. Supporting LSEB students across the full decision journey came across from the panel; with a focus on understanding the breath of opportunities available as well as support at the coal face with the application

8. Be flexible – by providing different work opportunities at different levels and clear pathways for progression as well as with the timing of the experience.

9. Avoid industry jargon, plus bring same attitude/thought process to ensuring inclusive culture once someone is in the organisation

Watch the webinar to hear more including young people from GoodWork and The 93% Club who gave their insights into what is most effective and what they want to see from employers, suppliers and universities to support them in ensuring a fair and equitable environment which promotes social mobility.


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