The Social Mobility Foundation has revealed the Social Mobility Employer Index 2019, naming the top 75 companies in the UK that have taken the most action to improve social mobility within the workplace. It is heartening to see NCUB business members place highly in the Index, with three of our members – PwC, Severn Trent and Linklaters – in the top 10.

As the Social Mobility Foundation’s Emily Hodgson recently wrote on our website, research has consistently shown that people from more affluent backgrounds take a disproportionate number of the best jobs and that employers tend to disproportionately employ graduates who went to private schools and a small number of universities. The Social Mobility Employer Index is a voluntary survey that assesses employers on how much they are trying to change this.

This year’s Index shows that a wide-ranging set of changes are taking place in how employers work with young people, design their recruitment and selection processes, the data they collect and their strategies for retaining employees from different backgrounds. 42% of employers who submitted to the Index this year have said they monitor their recruitment process to see where those from lower socio-economic backgrounds fall down, and nearly 40% of employers have assessed whether their organisation’s culture is welcoming to those from those backgrounds.

NCUB members in top 10 for Social Mobility

Coming overall first on the list, PwC has undertaken considerable work to enable those from lower socio-economic backgrounds to succeed. Measures taken by PwC include increasing the variety of routes for people of all backgrounds into the firm, engaging with a wide range of schools and universities across the country and, specifically, providing both employment and schools outreach in Bradford – a government identified social mobility Opportunity Area.

Named in third place, Severn Trent is committed to helping people from all backgrounds not only get suitable roles within the business but also to get on in their careers once they’re in. To date, almost half of Severn Trent’s new hires come from areas identified as being social mobility cold spots and just under half of all promotions within the company have been awarded to staff from cold spots. The company has also signed up to the Social Mobility Pledge, a campaign to challenge the UK’s poor record on social mobility.

Linklaters ranked ninth in recognition of the firm’s focus on its diversity and inclusion strategy. The company offers employment skills-focused programmes, workshops and work experience placements for pupils at local schools, as well as mentoring opportunities for young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds with Linklaters employees. In addition the company has a number of programmes in place. One great example is the Linklaters Virtual Internship programme which gives students in campuses across the UK a first step in developing the skills and understanding needed to be a successful lawyer.

A critical celebration

As we celebrate the progress being made, we need to note that there is still more to be done. This year’s Index shows that Oxford and Cambridge are still visited by Index entrants more than 72 universities combined and whilst 45% of applications to all Index employers come from the 24 Russell Group universities, 62% of hires do. These figures are largely unchanged in 3 years despite employers making fewer visits to Russell Group universities overall.

Universities and businesses must work together to ensure that students and graduates from all backgrounds are able to reach their potential and succeed in life. From introducing inclusive work placements and apprenticeships to designing apps to help disadvantaged pupils, to contextualised admissions and recruitment, there are numerous ways universities and business can collaborate to improve social mobility in the UK. At NCUB, we aim to bring together the expertise of our university and business members to discuss and explore innovative, cross-sectoral approaches to social mobility, and exchange knowledge and best practice between industry and academia to support better outcomes for all.

We’re continually gathering the latest research and opinion around the topic of social mobility on our website and are always keen to hear from members who would like to contribute.