Ignoring A-Level results is not the best way to build a truly diverse workforce

Marianne Fallon
Firms need to make real efforts to improve access and expand the pool of graduates (Source: Getty)
Today's A-Level results are a welcome release of tension for students, as many begin to contemplate university and their career paths. But are first-rate grades and university degrees still top of the wish list for businesses? A recent poll by KPMG revealed that 80 per cent of UK adults believe that success is driven by how hard you work and how talented you are, not by what qualifications you have earned.
In the last few weeks, we have seen some large employers announce a shift in how they recruit, from the traditional reliance on UCAS points to new online testing systems developed to assess a candidate’s aptitude. As a business that hired 1,000 graduates from 20,000 applications last year, we know how difficult it is to recruit the right mix of young people with different experiences and life skills. So any move to broaden access is positive. But such efforts alone won’t result in the changes needed.
My fear is that traditional applicants will still apply for these positions, as all that has changed is the channel they have to go through – online tests as opposed to UCAS points. The propensity to “game” online tests is also a real concern, as candidates may ask others to complete the submission on their behalf.
To create a truly diverse workforce, we need to widen the net of young people who would want to apply for such roles in the first place. It is no longer acceptable to assume that the best candidates will seek you out, so firms need to make real efforts to improve access and expand the pool of graduates.
This is good for business and society. At KPMG, we believe that, in order to be the clear choice for our clients and to be a socially responsible business, we must ensure that we recruit and retain a diverse workforce that will provide us with strong links to the communities we work in.
As a firm, we have developed a model of actively reaching out to young people, via mentoring, sponsorship and through our links with organisations such as the City Academy Hackney, to make them aware of the career paths open to them. We also offer specific programmes to enable students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to join our business and gain qualifications without taking the traditional university route. We have recently launched KPMG 360o, a six-year rotational apprenticeship scheme. It offers the chance to study to a technician level qualification and gain experience across a variety of different areas of the business.
Attributes such as passion, creativity and the ability to bring a different way of thinking to the table can be just as crucial as academic results in a business environment. We are proud sponsors of Enactus, which works with universities and students to set up socially beneficial enterprises. This has given the students very employable skills, with some firms reporting that Enactus students are ten times more likely to be recruited.
For companies more generally, reaching out to potential employees from all social backgrounds will help to ensure a better-rounded workforce, benefitting the firm, its clients and society as a whole.

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