Who’s who in social mobility?

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A recent study found the relatively small proportion of people who went to private school dominate the country’s top jobs.

Employers also have a duty to do what they can in this space to help ensure those from less privileged backgrounds are not overlooked, whether that’s being more open-minded around recruitment or ensuring people have the opportunity once in a role to develop.

The following is a guide to Who’s Who in social mobility, looking at sources of support and advice which can help to create a more equal society, and ensure employers can gain from a more diverse talent pool:


Apprenticeships are one way in which employers can help to give school-leavers or young adults an entry point into a career that could transform their prospects, particularly in the wake of the apprenticeship levy, which has encouraged larger businesses to develop their own schemes.

Sites such as GetMyFirstJob or Apprenticeship Connect provide links between would-be apprentices and employers, while many recruiters such as Totaljobs or Monster also advertise vacancies.

NotGoingtoUni offers a range of apprenticeships and gap year options, while many larger employers such as KPMG, PwC and BDO also have their own schemes. Employers can help here by being open to recruiting from non-graduate populations, and developing their own schemes.

HR/recruitment best practice

Employers also need to make sure they eliminate any form of unconscious bias in the recruitment or promotion of employees. Artificial intelligence can help with this by making initial decisions based on suitability for the role, while some organisations now remove educational achievements altogether from CVs.

Rare Recruitment

Organisations such as Rare Recruitment, which specialises in diverse graduate recruitment, can also work with employers on their processes, including helping firms to track ethnicity and background.

The Bridge Group

The Bridge Group, meanwhile, is a non-profit consultancy that works with employers to identify any barriers to social mobility that may be inherent in their processes. This has been used by Grant Thornton and has been instrumental in the firm overhauling its recruitment processes after a report highlighted a number of ways in which it could improve its practices.


There are a number of charities which exist to help promote social mobility, and can assist employers looking to tap into talent from unusual sources or disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Social Mobility Foundation

The Social Mobility Foundation, for instance, benchmarks employers through its SM Employer Index, assessing their recruitment and progression processes, and providing valuable feedback.

As well as benefiting from a more diverse talent pool, organisations can also generate some favourable publicity from their efforts; in the most recent index Deloitte, PwC and KPMG all featured in the top 10 employers.

The Equality Trust

The Equality Trust actively campaigns to reduce social and economic inequality, and runs a speaker network which delivers talks to schools, colleges and universities as well as businesses, trade unions and other organisations.

Government bodies

The Social Mobility Commission

The Social Mobility Commission is an independent statutory body which was recently allocated £2 million in research funding to help investigate the educational and skills issues associated with a lack of social mobility.

A recent study found that the poorest adults with the lowest qualifications are the least likely to access adult training, with graduates three times more likely to receive training than those with no qualifications.

The Pledge

The Pledge is an initiative set up by Justin Greening MP to get employers to take practical steps to improve social mobility for staff. Those signing up have to commit to recruitment practices that level the playing field for candidates, as well as to offer internships and access to coaching and mentoring.

The scheme is a good starting point for employers, for those who are not yet at the stage of joining the Social Mobility Foundation’s benchmarking index. To date, more than 250 employers have signed up.

Social enterprises

Many social enterprises exist to help individuals improve their chances in life, offering stable employment and the prospect to develop new skills. By using social enterprises as suppliers, employers from all sectors can do their bit to help support these organisations, and their staff.

Social Enterprise UK

Social Enterprise UK is the country’s biggest network of social enterprises, and helps connect organisations such as Johnson & Johnson, PwC and Wates Group with responsible social enterprises.


The charitable organisation Inspire2Enterprise can also help individuals who are looking to set up their own social enterprise.

The Big Society Capital

The Big Society Capital exists to link such organisations with fund managers and other investors to help them access finance to get up and running.

Read more on social mobility here:

Nick Martindale is a freelance journalist, editor and copywriter. He regularly contributes to a wide range of national and business media, including The Telegraph, Raconteur supplements in The Times and HR magazine.

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