Will Richardson - supporting skills development and social mobility

We’re working as a Cornerstone employer in Bradford - the sixth biggest City in the UK, and also the youngest - to help ensure thousands of school students have meaningful interactions with employers.  In this video, our Leeds Office Senior Partner, Will Richardson, explains why he feels this work is so important and how, by working with other businesses, we can have maximum impact.

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Will Richardson


Hi.  I’m Will Richardson, the Office Senior Partner for PwC in Leeds.  

I was lucky growing up.  Both of my parents had jobs; my mum was a primary school teacher and my dad ran the local newsagents in a small village in North Yorkshire. So I grew up expecting to get a job.

For far too many people across the UK, that expectation that I had simply doesn’t exist, never mind the aspiration that they may have a rewarding and a satisfying career. That is why social mobility is so important to me.

At PwC, supporting skills development and social mobility is not just about who comes to work for us; it’s about supporting a much wider group to help them progress as far as their talent and determination will take them - regardless of what career path that might be.

That is why we have signed up to one of the government’s flagship social mobility initiatives, known as Opportunity Areas, which seek to make targeted interventions into 12 of the UK’s lowest performing areas for school achievement and social mobility.

Our core focus is on Bradford.  Bradford is the sixth largest city in the UK, with a population of half a million people. Yet a third of all adults are unemployed, and 40% of the city’s wards fall within the poorest 20% in Britain.

At the heart of our involvement in Bradford is helping to provide more employer encounters for young people, such as mentoring, skills development and workplace experiences. These employer encounters help to create more awareness of the opportunities, more expectation and more aspiration.

Research reveals that young people who have four or more encounters with employers, whilst at school, are 86% less likely to end up not in employment, education or training later in life.   Just think about that for a second; 86% less likely to end up not in employment, education or training. That’s huge!

In Bradford, as an Opportunity Area, we’ve set ourselves the objective that over the next three years every 11-18 year old will receive at least four meaningful encounters with employers.  This equates to around 150,000 employer encounters. It’s an ambitious goal; but it’s the right goal. If together we can achieve this, we can help our young people to break out of the cycles of low achievement, low expectation and low aspiration that have held them back for far too long.

All employers can play their part, not just in Bradford, but across the country. From PwC’s perspective, as well as it being the right thing to do, it also helps to create a better prepared and equipped workforce for tomorrow.

Until we start to instill more expectation, more aspiration within our young people, we’ll never properly address the social mobility problem, nor will we get to the heart of the skills challenges, helping to create the workforce that will achieve the inclusive growth our country so desperately needs.  

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