Time for City of London businesses to get ambitious on improving social mobility

Catherine McGuinness
Evidence shows that diversity enhances corporate performance (Source: Getty)

Last week, the Social Mobility Foundation announced the top 50 UK employers taking the most action to improve social mobility in the workplace.

Research has consistently shown that people from more affluent backgrounds take a disproportionate number of the best jobs, and that employers tend to disproportionately favour graduates who went to private schools and elite universities.

Evidence and experience also shows though that diversity enhances corporate performance.

Read more: Ranked: The top UK employers for social mobility

While an increasing number of firms are creating paid internships and apprenticeships to attract bright young people from low-income backgrounds, many others could be much more ambitious in their handling of social mobility.

Similarly, there has been quite a growth in the number of employers recording data on the socio-economic profile of their workforce in recent years, but this is mostly focused on new recruits rather than looking at progression rates of employees from low-income backgrounds.

The Social Mobility Index, developed in partnership with the Social Mobility Commission and the City of London Corporation, is an effective incentive for UK firms to demonstrate the progress they are making in this vital area.

We at the City Corporation are supporting the Index with funding to encourage and support responsible businesses, residents and workers to help change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Londoners.

I am particularly pleased to see so many City businesses represented in the top 50. 13 out of the top 20 are City firms: businesses which are showing real ambition in their approach to tackling social mobility.

More firms are making progress on social mobility, casting the net wider in the search for talent and recognising that a level playing field is in the best interests for all businesses.

Yet some businesses tell us that they are finding it difficult to recruit enough people with the right skills.

There is an untapped pool of talent out there. More than one in five young Londoners are out of work. With the right training and preparation, skills gaps can be filled by some of the young people who would sometimes be disregarded by traditional recruitment practices. But if we continue to source candidates from the same pools, we will get the same fish.

The City of London Corporation is constantly looking at how we can improve, reviewing its own performance against the standards of the Index. Our City Business Traineeship programme, managed by The Brokerage, helps state school students from the City’s neighbouring boroughs to develop the skills needed for a successful career through paid internships. Over 1,500 young people have benefited so far, with more than 100 of the Square Mile’s top employers providing placements.

We are also rising to the challenge set by government to have 2.3 per cent of its workforce as apprentices. These are just a few examples but we can all do more to support young people to succeed and achieve their potential through education.

The City Corporation is a proud partner of the Index and I look forward to seeing how we can shift the dial on this important issue. Let’s make social mobility a priority for our businesses and our communities.

Read more: It's up to business to make social mobility a reality for UK millennials

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