STUDENTS across the UK opened their A-Level results yesterday and, for most, the three or four letters in that envelope will determine where they study next or which employer they go on to work for. A-Level results day has been a major milestone in many peoples’ lives since the 1950s. But if other organisations follow EY’s lead, it may not have the same significance for future generations of school and sixth form leavers.
Last week, we made the announcement that we have removed academic qualifications from our entry criteria for our trainee programmes, whether they be for graduates, undergraduates or school leavers. Students will no longer be required to have a minimum of 300 UCAS points (equivalent to 3 Bs) and a 2:1 degree classification to apply for a role with us.
As one of the UK’s largest graduate recruiters, we want to break down the barriers that exclude talented people from certain backgrounds. Put simply, academic qualifications can often be an indication of an individual’s background and the education system which they have had access to. In isolation, they rarely tell employers enough about whether a candidate has the skills needed to succeed.
Commerciality, networking and an ability to influence are all qualities which we believe are far less subject to the biases of how and where you grew up and, importantly, are some of the key skills needed for our business. By making academic results one of the last things we look at in the recruitment process and not the first, we are emphasising the key strengths of people that do well at EY. We have developed a much more inclusive testing process that will better allow candidates to demonstrate their full potential.
We believe this change will make good business sense. Having spent 18 months conducting an in-depth analysis of our student recruitment process, we found that an individual doing well at college or university was too blunt a predictor of their future success with us at EY. Ultimately, we want to secure the very best people, and we’re more likely to achieve this by not shutting the door on anybody too early on.
Not only does this change work for our business, but we also hope it will be beneficial to society too. This year, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission highlighted the issues of downward mobility and “glass floors”, which prevent individuals from less privileged backgrounds from accessing the very best jobs. It is our hope that this new process will encourage those who would never have previously thought to apply for a role with us to do so, and to help send the message that we’re an inclusive, forward-thinking employer.
Maggie Stilwell is managing partner for talent at EY.