Nick Clegg asks business to help young people

The programme is a part of the social mobility drive launched by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last year and encourages businesses to open their doors to people from all walks of life. According to Clegg the programme will put an end to the culture of "who you know, not what you know".

At the launch he said the initiative is an important step for business. "By opening their doors to young people from all walks of life, this marks the start of a culture shift among major employers, driven by the belief that ability and drive should trump connections and privilege," he explained.

Statistics show that access to some jobs is still restricted to people from certain social backgrounds. Currently only a quarter of boys from working class backgrounds get professional or managerial jobs and while just seven per cent of the population attend independent schools, the privately educated make up more than half of the top level jobs in many professions.

Already over 100 businesses across the UK have signed up to the programme. They include big employers Tesco and Sainsbury's, Nestlé and Coca Cola as well as 10 top law firms. It is hoped that many more organisations, both small and large, will sign up over the next year.

Morrisons chief executive officer Dalton Phillips says he is happy to take part. "Business has an obligation to ensure Britain has the right skills," he says. "That is why we work so hard to give our colleagues the skills they need; our apprenticeships programme fuels their career and allows them to move up the ladder."

Participating businesses have agreed to adhere to four main points:

  • Support communities and schools and help to raise aspirations. This could be mentoring schemes or company staff visiting schools to talk about their careers and inspire pupils.
  • Open opportunities to all young people by advertising work experience places in schools and other public forums instead of giving places to informal contacts.
  • Make access to internships open and transparent and provide financial support such as providing expenses or accommodation. Alternatively they can opt to treat the internship as a paid placement under and pay the national minimum wage.
  • Recruit fairly and without discrimination using application forms that eliminate unfair screening processes.

Anchor, a provider of housing and care for older people, now works closely with community partners including JobCentre Plus to promote local jobs for local people and is in the process of launching a new apprenticeships scheme. "Having a balanced workforce that truly represents the local community helps us to understand the different needs of our customers," says Lee Avery, acting head of HR and organisational development. "We believe that a diverse workforce can offer a wider range of resources, skills, ideas and energy."

More details on Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers: a strategy for social mobility and how to sign up your business can be found at: www.dpm.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/businesscompact

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