As they opened their A-Level results yesterday, students up and down the country marked the start of their professional lives.
The next step may well be university, but for many a career or further training awaits without the need to spend three years studying at an institution. Indeed, City & Guilds research has found that while almost 70 per cent of teenagers plan to go to university, only 30 per cent of available jobs are forecast to be graduate roles. Despite this, there has yet to be anything resembling a rejection of the university route but there are signs that a welcome cultural shift is underway when it comes to recruitment, and the City is playing a key role in facilitating this. One such development is the rise in apprenticeships, where The City of London Corporation is leading by example having recently pledged to hire 100 new apprentices. The Big Four accountancy firms have also created thousands of opportunities to climb the City ladder for those without a university education. However, more can be done. Firms across the City need to ask if they are attracting the best people for their offices, regardless of academic background. This is a question that has become all the more salient given Brexit and the associated issue of access to talent. With more and more people questioning the wisdom of a traditional debt-laden university experience as the best route to employment, opening up channels for non-graduates to earn while they learn will pay dividends in the future. As the UK leaves the EU, we should relish the opportunity to nurture homegrown talent and this will entail a radical reimagining of hiring practices. A McKinsey study found that companies in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity were more likely to have above-average financial returns. Firms using “blind CVs” to nullify unconscious bias are leading the pack in attracting talent from all walks of life. The City, perhaps more than any other sector of the economy, is built on meritocracy. Ability and hard work count for much more than the colour of a school tie. Furthermore, companies must adapt to the changing values and aspirations of school and university leavers if they're to attract and retain the best talent.