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Recorded in partnership with Making The Leap, the innovative grassroots societal change charity that transforms the futures of young people from less advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds in the UK. This episode focuses on the importance of social mobility and the steps that companies and organisations can take to ensure genuine opportunities for all, no matter what their background.
Host Graham Barrett was joined online by:
Lucy discussed that at Making the Leap, social mobility is about ensuring that everyone has a good standard of living, no matter what their background or occupation. That can include decent housing, the ability to feed yourself and your family, and financial security. She added that it is about equality of opportunity, regardless of your parent’s background or occupation, which includes access to education and training opportunities therefore employment in any sector.
She said that Making the Leap transforms the futures of young people from less advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds in London, by providing training to raise their aspirations, develop their confidence skills and outlook and give them the chance to succeed in their chosen career. This year Making the Leap is celebrating their 30th anniversary.
The Making the Leap program is for young people aged 11 to 25 in London that are supported from secondary to young people that have left education, completed their education and are looking to start their career. All of the programs are around raising their aspirations, developing their soft skills, giving them those valuable employer interactions, and supporting young people into employment with a focus on opportunities to really kick start their career.
Lucy added that in 2017 they launched UK Social Mobility Awards, followed by spin off initiatives including the Social Mobility podcast, Social Mobility Day and Social Mobility seminar. Making the Leap also runs advocacy where they support other organisations around what social mobility means in their business and sector and publish reports about what social mobility activities happening across the country in business.
Wumi explained that he completed the Ace (Aspirations, Careers and Employability) workshop and after completion you become a fellow. He completed the program in 2017 straight out of university after his mother was so impressed by the great opportunities it gave his older sister in the law industry despite her introvert traits. Wumi said that when he started, he was charismatic but lacked discipline. The programme changed this for him. He believes the workshops gave him the mental enlightenment he required.
He added that the biggest blocker for him was you can only achieve what you can see. He goes on to describe a powerful moment where the founder, Tunde Banjoko OBE, gave a scenario about how it is ‘you versus a Cambridge graduate’. He was asked to stand up and answer the question ‘is he better than you?’ And the workshop asked them to stand up and say no he is not. The lesson there was just because someone else has had different opportunities than you, it doesn’t mean he’s better than you.
Diligent training from the Making the Leap staff helped his mindset shift and help to unlock his abilities. Wumi said that social mobility means not just access to opportunities, but actually being able to develop and to actually evolve into these senior positions.
Kelly discussed how people from low economic backgrounds or socioeconomic backgrounds face more challenges and have fewer opportunities to climb the socioeconomic ladder. She also mentioned that even once they have these opportunities and they are inside organisations, is that growth and development.
This helps to form an approach at CMC markets, where they have a real drive inside from the very top level of their organisation, thanks to Lord Peter Cruddas, CEO and founder of CMC. Kelly said that Lord Cruddas comes from a low economic background. He was, born and raised in East London in Shoreditch on a council estate and has gone on to be a bit of a poster child for socioeconomic movement because he’s gone on to create a very successful business and is now a Lord. Kely mentioned Lord Peter Cruddas’s book called ‘From Milkman to Mayfair’, which tells you about his rags to riches story.
Jack shared his own story of social mobility and said that he feels fortunate to be able to influence the strategy of an organisation. He grew up in an ex-mining village in Yorkshire, with free school meals kid, failing school, young carer with a single parent.
He had a great childhood, but obviously had a pretty challenging environment growing up, but despite this, he excelled at school and graduated at Cambridge University and is 15 years into his successful international development and corporate sustainability career.
He described himself as the product of the social mobility mindset! And a mantra he believes in is take the opportunities given to you and do better than what you were able to achieve.
Jack explained that PA launched the PA Foundation last year with the aim to inspire and develop those people from disadvantaged backgrounds by expanding access to education, skills and careers, particularly in STEM related fields. It’s all about equitable access to everyone and a real focus on developing human social capital that will lead to better careers and better jobs and ultimately better lives. He discussed a few main areas of focus including future-proofing skills, increase access to networks and building confidence and self-esteem.
Jack went on to describe a recent experience where the springboard programme at PA Consulting took on young people for work experience. He exclaimed they were so grateful, but he kept reminding them they deserve this opportunity. PA Consulting currently at about 20 charity partners and have distributed £3m across some of these.
Jack highlighted the lack thereof social mobility in the UK particularly in comparison to Switzerland and the United States. The UK’s educational system is not a social leveller, and therefore those people from low-income households are probably less likely to achieve the basic school grades to go to top universities. They’re less hopeful about career prospects and they’re less likely to become entrepreneurs which are all interesting research findings from organisations like the Sutton Trust and Teach First. Jack added that Covid disproportionately affected those people on low incomes, but other forms of disadvantage intersect with low income, for example, women, and people with disabilities. Naturally, the conversation is around low income, but there’s got to be more data generated when it comes to how does it intersect with other forms of disadvantage.
Jack added that employers have a duty to think about how they can address social mobility, and they can do this by looking at their own recruitment practices, for example, are they inclusive to people from low-income backgrounds?
Kelly emphasized that companies can better understand the benefits to their organisation when looking through a social mobility lens. There’s plenty of research out there that suggests that the companies that are more diverse are able to outperform other organisations because they recruit from the widest pool of talent. They’re looking beyond, the standard recruitment process and then going beyond and using pools of talent like Making the Leap, which, CMC are in partnership with for the third year. She adds that CMC recruited individuals from the Making the Leap ACE program.
Lucy said that the pandemic is still impacting young people in terms of their outlook and how they feel about themselves. In those formative years, young people from less advantaged backgrounds were having even less access to the resources and opportunities that they so desperately need. This has a knock-on effect as young people are completing their education and they are now thinking about the world of work, they’re just feeling quite different to how they would before.
Lucy added that across her work with both secondary schools and young adults, more young people are struggling with their confidence and self-esteem and also a lack of understanding of what opportunities are available. She has seen an increase in demand for Making the Leap ACE program over the past year, which she thinks is reflective of where young people are at, alongside the current cost of living crisis. She added that she is seeing that young people are trying to balance the need for getting any job right now just to be able to provide an income for themselves with their career aspirations and wanting to explore different career paths.
Lucy discussed that data is pretty harsh and it shows that we are quite stagnant with social mobility. But there’s room for optimism with advocacy work through the UK Social Mobility Awards and through valuable partnerships like Making the Leap have with PA Consulting and CMC Markets. She thinks across the board, more organisations are wanting to get involved in social mobility activity, which is positive and hopeful that will continue to support young people because they really need it more than ever.
Wumi stated that social mobility is a critical piece to a thriving society. As a person working in the office sector, he said things have dramatically changed in a post-Covid world, including the way in which people work, which could be hybrid working or emote working, which has really caused a strain on companies and businesses because they’ve struggled with their identity. He added that progression is important in an organisation but so is a company you can connect with, and companies are battling to attract and retain talent in this job market. He equated it with the same importance as the ESG agenda for a lot of businesses right now. If companies aren’t thinking about it, they will be in a position that they will have to very soon. It can be natural to look at the top universities and attract talent from there. It just makes sense if there’s a Russell Group University teaching your sector, you want the best talent to compete with the best. But even in his own case he did not study real estate or go to a Russell Group University but through opportunity he is leading a real estate business and doing well. He suggested that from a business point of view, diversity of thought can breed innovation.
Wumi quoted Winston Churchill: ‘To improve is to change. To perfect, is to change often’, which he suggested should be the backbone of diversity within your business, as there is constantly innovation as people have diversity breeds different mindsets. He mentioned people like Jack telling their story helps out these situations and when the economy improves we will see brighter days.
Jack emphasised that he was managing the household budget and doing the weekly shop at ten years old. So, if you imagine that there are other people out there like him, think about what they can do for your business at the age of 22 or onwards. He discussed the resilience these young people have. He only decided to speak about his social mobility story at 36 years old, due to social mobility prejudice and due to it being a difficult conversation and hard to navigate. He said that many organisations lack acknowledgment of social mobility but the skills and the behaviours that you pick up from being from backgrounds like Jack’s should be celebrated. Therefore, Jack thinks providing opportunities in a safe space for people to be heard with different social mobility background stories is important alongside leaders recognising that some people have overcome greater challenges to get to where they are.
Kelly talked about the listening groups around social mobility that have started up at CMC as a result of individuals that have come off the ACE program by Making the Leap. She suggested that it is an organisation’s job to make sure that everybody that comes through the doors gets the opportunity to grow and develop and enhance their career.
Kelly agreed with Jack in the sense of social mobility being difficult to navigate because there are some sensitive topics that you need to cover about your background or where you come from and the economic situation of your families. Therefore, she feels it is important to build trust inside your organisation where people do feel free and comfortable. She described her role as including the ESG agenda which indicates the diversity equity and inclusion program at her organisation. She explained how social mobility needs to be separated from DNI despite their interaction, she feels people must understand the difference.
Kelly added that the listening group says it does need to come from the top of an organisation. She also talked about a triple A concept which is around action, accountability, and authenticity which was the result of a listening group. Action does need to happen with inside organisations. The accountability element is it should come from that top level. The authenticity element of the discussion was very much around, not being a tick-box exercise. Social mobility should be embedded into the DNA, the culture of the organisation.
Lucy talked about organisations understanding the make-up of their staff because it’s not a one size fits all approach to tackling social mobility, every organisation has a different makeup of staff, also at different levels in the business. She added it is important to use data which the Social Mobility Commission has a one-question approach where there are various resources available, but the one question approach is about asking staff in a survey what the household income was when they were 14 years old. This enables organisations to gather some data just as a starting point to see who is in your organisation and then taking it from there because it’s important to have that strategy and a plan in place.
Lucy discussed the importance of data enabling you to set some targets and priorities that really fit your organisation. She explained two main areas – one being engagement and recruitment and then retention and progression and that could be about mentoring, targeted training programs to be able to support staff. She added the importance of looking at your culture and your values and seeing if that actually reflected throughout the organisation and can people actually develop.
Lucy’s last point was about sharing what your organisation is doing internally and externally and getting involved in initiatives and getting involved in the discussion. Making the Leap was recently commissioned by the Co-op to conduct research in their business to understand social mobility, and that report was published in June and it enables Co-op to highlight all the good they were doing but also areas they needed to work on. As a result, they have committed to nine pledges publicly around social mobility.
Wumi talked about mentoring role models and social capital. He shared his first experience in real estate and how his manager from a similar diverse background to him noticed the resilience that the door-to-door sales he had done which was highlighted in his CV, was what captured his manager into hiring him because he believed it takes a certain character to be able to do these types of jobs. He saw that as enough transferable skills to give him the opportunity which actually allowed Wumi to work his way through the industry. Therefore, he believes having diversity, at the top within leadership will definitely trickle down and seep into the DNA.
Wumi’s second example that he spoke about was when he worked at Knight Frank, where the head of the Race and Faith Board at Knight Frank became a mentor for him and introduced him to many senior members of staff leading up to meeting the actual CEO. Wumi described his experience as it’s not just what you know it is who you know. His experience has led him to believe an organisation to have good mentors with entry level and also mature staff so all members within a company can forge relationships and this helps to create an innovative and profitable business as employees feel they are part of the big picture
Kelly highlighted that organisations should start from the recruitment process at looking for a talent pool from Making the Leap or from universities that are not the Red Brick University etc. She thinks organisations should always be thinking what can we then do? She believes that organisations should build the confidence and social network of young people and raise awareness of what good talent looks like from low economic backgrounds and how this benefits an organization.
Jack discussed that data shows there is a problem with social mobility in the UK and this must be addressed, and this imbalance is where some people are further behind and we should be supporting them more than others. Jack believes in safe and comfortable spaces within organisations so all people can feel supported.
Wumi stated that organisations like CMC are good at connecting people for example all the people of the ACE programme at CMC knew each other despite the size of the organisation. Wumi said that his key takeaway is just creating the right culture in an organisation which is something CBRE does really well, and you are judged on merit not by what you look like. He added that this culture starts at the top as his head of department, doesn’t have an office, he hot desks around every single day. Lastly, he shared a quote: ‘If we all have a bigger pie, we’ll all have a bigger slice’.
Lucy discussed having a plan in place to ensure that everyone works from and track progress. She added there are lots of fantastic charities and community organizations that are doing great work and CMC and PA Consulting have taken it one step further by establishing charitable foundations which is amazing.
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