Lifting the mask on social mobility

Jul 27, 2020 | Diversity

Social mobility forms part of a responsible business programme. Tonia Galati and Mona Vadher from TG Consulting consider what this means in the wake of Covid-19.

Those from working class backgrounds are 80% less likely to make into professional jobs. Five years after graduation, students who had been eligible for free school meals were paid on average 11.5% less than their peers.

Some great work has been done to advance social mobility, with many organisations focusing on attracting a more diverse pool of talent by addressing subconscious bias and adapting recruitment processes. Coupled with the work undertaken by higher education institutions to build student confidence and aspirations, this had started to address some of the significant barriers young people face and subsequently levelling the playing field. 

Creating brighter futures

In the wake of Covid-19, among the hardest hit are those from low socio-economic backgrounds. The Social Mobility Commission has underlined that Covid-19 threatens to have a devastating impact on the poorest groups and ministers have not acted on a third of its key recommendations over the past seven years. 

According to the authors, young Britons currently under the age of 25 face declining social mobility unless moves are made to create a fairer society; including a job guarantee scheme for those facing long-term unemployment and catch-up tutoring for disadvantaged students. Social mobility is now more important than ever, therefore addressing the challenges and opportunities needs to be a priority for employers to support their current employees and create brighter futures for those adversely impacted.

Competition for graduate opportunities has always been high, now, more than ever, especially given the predicted reduction in opportunities for September 2020. There is a risk of decreased confidence, engagement and aspirations amongst students and the barriers some of them already face will be heightened due to the reduction in opportunities. Restrictions on-campus impacts directly on employer engagement, so many will need to look for alternative ways to attract talent and look at staff efficiencies as organisations look to get back on their feet.

Breaking down barriers

There are many untapped opportunities to engage with institutions and their students in much more creative and effective ways. Moving away from the traditional milkround actually establishes sustainable and meaningful relationships.

One positive step employers have made is to offer virtual experiences, but for many students, interviewing face-to-face and trying to get their personality across is nerve racking and difficult – doing this in front of a computer screen adds an additional layer of complexity.

If considered carefully, this is actually an opportunity to reset and engage with even more diverse talent than previously. If you are serious about pushing this agenda forward, avoid the temptation of:

  • Going back to ‘target’ institutions to fill reduced vacancies from the ‘top’ universities
  • Unpaid internships wrapped up as ‘virtual insights’
  • Not considering effective recruitment practices.

Collaboration and challenging thinking are all key to ensuring we don’t widen the attainment and employability skills gaps.

Now more than ever it is important to ensure inclusivity of opportunity. Partnerships between employers and universities are critical in creating sustainable partnerships that help to drive forward societal change. This approach can also create new and exciting opportunities for the next generation. Let’s turn this time of uncertainty into a time of growth and change.

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