What is social mobility?
It's about your past not determining your future. Equality of opportunity. Making the most of your talent.
Research suggests that people born into a background of disadvantage face significant difficulties in overcoming barriers that exist through no fault of their own, with lower educational and employment outcomes as a result. For example:
- In the last ten years, 500,000 children from poorer backgrounds were not considered to be school-ready at the age of five;
- Only 1 in 3 children from poorer families reach the expected standard in English, Reading and Maths by age 11;
- In the last five years, 1.2 million 16 year-olds left school without 5 good GCSEs;
- 18 year-olds from better-off families are twice as likely to go to university, and six times more likely to go to a selective university;
- Graduates from poorer families earn 10% less than their peers from wealthier families;
- People from working-class backgrounds are significantly under-represented at the top levels of industry, politics and even sport.
But why should PwC care about social mobility? And what can PwC do to help solve this important societal problem?
Social mobility matters to PwC. We're a people business and we want the best people to work for us, wherever they come from. Our work and our people will be better for being informed by diverse insights and experiences.
We provide a number of routes into PwC and we’re continually innovating, to increase the opportunities people have to work for us.
In 2015 we removed UCAS points from the majority of our graduate and undergraduate opportunities. We’ve strengthened our School Leaver programme and offer formal paid work experience to year 12 students. We have our Flying Start university programme and our Technology Degree Apprenticeship and Data Science Graduate Apprenticeships for those who want a traditional university experience and to launch their career at the same time.
We’ve recently launched our new student recruitment selection process which helps to remove unconscious bias including removing ‘past-focused’ questioning that favours candidates from more privileged backgrounds.
Over the next five years, we will:
- Increase our formal work experience programme, aiming to provide paid work experience for at least 1,000 young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the next five years through our Business Insight Week and Digital Insight Week programmes;
- Work with young people in at least 25 of the social mobility local authority coldspots identified by the Social Mobility Commission, to raise their awareness of business and their aspirations of what they can achieve;
- Seek to increase the number of applications and hires from people with disadvantaged backgrounds. Our aim is that, by 2022, 15% of our hires will be from a Free School Meals background, to ensure our annual intake is representative of the broader school population.
We're a member of The 5% Club, an industry led initiative focussed on driving momentum into the recruitment of apprentices, graduates and sponsored students. The 5% Club is a movement of more than 250 employers providing ‘earn and learn’ opportunities to develop the skills and talents people need to become more employable and create meaningful careers. We currently have 20% of our workforce on formal earn and learn programmes through our graduate, undergraduate and school leaver programmes. We're proud to showcase our commitment and act as an advocate for this cause by joining the club.
Joining is one thing. Staying and succeeding is another.
We’ve worked hard to ensure that PwC is an open, inclusive working environment, where everyone is treated with an open mind, recognised and rewarded for their hard work and given equal opportunities to grow, develop and progress within the business.
We'll be tracking the performance and progression of our employees from disadvantaged backgrounds much more closely in the years ahead. As the tangible symbol of who progresses the furthest within our partnership structure, we'll aim to report on the proportion of our Partners who tell us that they received Free School Meals.
Social mobility goes to the heart of our purpose as a firm, which is to build trust in society and solve important problems. Tackling social mobility has to go further than just what we do as a responsible employer – it must also include what we do as a responsible business.
We have a longstanding community programme, which this year delivered over 80,000 hours of volunteering and supported almost 20,000 beneficiaries across our focus areas of education and enterprise.
We also support social enterprise through our own social enterprise hub, the Fire Station, and our social enterprise restaurant Brigade, which is achieving a significant social impact and a positive Social Return on Investment.
In addition, we've outlined our support for supporting social mobility across the UK by becoming a Department for Education Skills Partner, a member of the Social Mobility Business Partnership and a signatory to the Social Mobility Pledge.
Over the next five years, we will:
- Help 25,000 young people to develop workplace skills through our programmes with schools and colleges across the UK;
- Support the development of 250 social enterprises through our UK-wide PwC Social Entrepreneurs Club, which offers mentoring, training, skills development and supply chain opportunities;
- Enable social enterprises to access our supply chain – as part of the SEUK Buy Social Corporate Challenge, we’ve committed to increase our spend with social enterprises and we’re aiming to spend at least £10 million with social enterprises by 2022;
- Ensure that our community programme impacts beneficiaries in at least 25 of the English social mobility local authority coldspots identified by the Social Mobility Commission;
- Support the Government’s flagship Opportunity Areas programme by being one of the initiative’s cornerstone employers, focusing on developing the employability prospects of young people in Bradford.
Social mobility is a problem that no single organisation can tackle alone. So it’s therefore vital that we collaborate with others, share our good practice and use our convening power to spread the messages about the importance of increased social mobility:
- We are a founder member of Access Accountancy, a collaboration of employers and professional bodies that is working to improve access to the accountancy profession for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds;
- We are a Living Wage employer – we’ve paid the London Living Wage for our on-site staff, including our suppliers, since 2006, and in 2008 we introduced a regional living wage, to ensure we also paid above the minimum wage outside of London;
- We publish a social mobility scorecard which publicly highlights our social mobility performance across all our focus areas of recruitment, progression, community and advocacy, and will be part of the PwC Annual Report;
- We've been ranked in the Top 10 of the Social Mobility Employer Index for the second successive year. And we’re continuing our sponsorship of the UK Social Mobility Awards, which are designed to celebrate those people and organisations that are doing their bit to improve social mobility.