The Forage Talent Resource Center

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Enhancing Social Mobility in the UK

“A fair society is an open society, one in which every individual is free to succeed.”

This sounds ideal but reality paints a far bleaker picture. 

In 2022, the postcode in which you grew up continues to be a singular indicator of your individual success. The school you went to, what your parents do for a living and who they know continues to play an important factor in bolstering an individual’s potential. Not merit or skills. 

And yet, low social mobility will cost £140bn a year from now to 2050 for the UK. That’s £1.3trn of lost GDP over the next 40 years! 

It has been long recognised that employers are uniquely placed to play a role in increasing social mobility by providing opportunities along the education to workforce path. At Forage, we know many employers like Clifford Chance, Ashurst and HSBC are working tirelessly to embrace the criticality of their role and to provide opportunities for those from historically underrepresented communities. 

We also recognise that there is no simple solution to low social mobility - it is a complex and multifaceted societal issue.

In light of this, we wanted to tap into our community of students in the UK and bring to surface their perspectives on this issue and how it has impacted them. We conducted a study of over 2,000 students in the UK and learned that while employer initiatives have certainly improved over the years, there is still much more to do. Students continue to observe the disproportionate impact attending “Oxbridge” or Russell Group Universities has on an individual’s chances of securing a role. They also observe the circular inequities of requiring work experience or relevant practical skills in order to gain employment, yet not being given any opportunities to access those in the first place. 

It comes as no surprise that what the next generation of talent wants aligns with the World Economic Forum’s recommendations, which include focusing on meritocracy in hiring, actively participating in technical education programmes and providing skilling opportunities.

But what does this mean in practice for employers that are already working so hard to make an impact in this space?

At Forage, we know that there is a better way to do this. Here are some ideas to get you started, to scale your impact and play your part in creating a fairer system: 

  1. Explore free virtual frameworks that provide participants with better career awareness, confidence and skills. Free and virtual reduce the myriad barriers to entry that otherwise exist for those from historically underrepresented communities. 
  2. Consider leveraging alternative hiring signals that go beyond the university someone went to or the marks they received. These are outcomes that benefit the advantaged, not the disadvantaged. 
  3. Explore ways to make an impact throughout the school-to-work transition by starting early, as early as secondary school. This enables employers to inspire early talent, while setting them up with the skills to pursue a successful career.

If you are ready to learn more about how you can use virtual skilling frameworks to enhance social mobility in the UK, then join Ashlie Collins, Director at Forage UK and Glen McGowan, Global Head of Talent (GBM + CMB) and Group Head of Graduates at HSBC, on January 18th to take a deeper dive into the findings of our UK Voice of the Forager report and learn from a trailblazing peer putting these findings into action!

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