Investing in Social Mobility is Investing in the Future
Growing up in a coal-mining town in South Wales, I was not focused on academics at school. It wasn’t until I encountered a new environment at Kingston Polytechnic that a switch flicked: I found enthusiasm for learning and discovered new interests and skills. Now as CEO of a major UK business, I am a passionate advocate for fairness and meritocracy, and the role that business has to play in social mobility.
For me, social mobility is about the extent to which someone’s circumstances at birth affect their outcomes later in life. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where the economic circumstances, family background or location you are born in have an impact on what you can achieve, irrespective of ability.
Unfortunately, we still live in a society where the economic circumstances, family background or location you are born in have an impact on what you can achieve, irrespective of ability.Jonathan Lewis, CEO of Capita
This is seen in the education attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers, which has grown to its highest level in 10 years. This disadvantage is perpetuated in the workplace through barriers in recruitment practices and unequal opportunities for workplace progression.
The result is detrimental to society and to our businesses, hampering our efforts to find the talent we need and limiting our productivity and performance.
So, what can businesses do?
It has been a privilege for me to lead Business in the Community’s (BITC’s) Employment and Skills Leadership Team for the last three years, driving our work on this agenda through BITC’s employment framework – Inspire, Hire and Grow. This framework is a brilliant way for purpose-driven businesses to have an impact on social mobility across the life cycle of education and employment.
Inspire is all about investing in communities. Through school partnerships and providing pre-employment training and support such as through BITC’s Job Coaching programme, businesses can help drive greater fairness and equality. At Capita, we have established partnerships with organisations that support disadvantaged jobseekers. And I am personally proud to have abolished unpaid internships at the business, which tend to give an advantage to young people from affluent backgrounds.
We can also ensure that our businesses do not perpetuate disadvantages when it comes to hiring by having an inclusive recruitment process and adopting changes such as those highlighted by BITC’s Opening Doors campaign. One area in that businesses can be more progressive is by focusing less on formal qualifications, when potential and competency often has a bigger role to play. This is a change we have adopted at Capita, by trialling different recruitment platforms to focus on essential skills and aptitude. The result has been more diverse hiring, for example, for our Kickstart programme, 60% of hires were ethnically diverse, 40% didn’t go to university, and almost 20% received free school meals.
Finally, focusing on these essential skills is also a key component of the ‘Grow’ part of the framework, as they are the skills that are needed at every level of a business. In doing so, we need to particularly invest in groups that might be less likely to take up training opportunities or progress in the workplace. At Capita, making diversity, equality and inclusion a business priority helps us to keep the right perspective as we focus on skills development.
As we take a moment to reflect on this year’s Social Mobility Awareness Day (15 June), I am proud of the progress that we at Capita – and the other members of BITC’s Employment and Skills Leadership Team, have made so far. I am optimistic that with the right focus, businesses can play a vital role in levelling the playing field for future generations and driving greater social mobility in the UK. And I am confident that this will lead to greater growth for our businesses too.
Take action now
- Get involved in BITC’s employment programmes and download our Time to Act education report
- Sign up to the Opening Doors inclusive recruitment campaign
- Download BITC’s Toolkit on Social Mobility: delivering change through essential skills
Work with us to create a skilled and inclusive workforce
FAIRER, GREENER, TOGETHER
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