Before introducing the panel, event chair Director at Vercida Consulting, Dan Robertson, shared some eye-opening statistics on social mobility in the UK. Most notably he revealed that individuals from working class backgrounds are 80% less likely to make it into professional jobs.
CEO of C. Hoare & Co and interim Chair at the Social Mobility Commission, Steven Cooper was the first to take the floor, sharing his story of leaving school at 16 with little aspirations and how he ended up in his current position. Since then, Steven has made it his mission to ensure that companies hire ‘real people, to take on real jobs achieving real wages.’
Talk then turned to the Social Mobility Pledge, founded by former UK Cabinet Minister, Rt Hon. Justine Greening, and UK entrepreneur David Harrison. The initiative, which seeks to unite organisations in taking steps to boost social mobility, is comprised of 450 business globally employing over 5 million people.
Of these businesses is law firm DLA Piper, whose Head Start programme ensures students facing social, cultural, or economic challenges can access long-term, practical support. Introduced by Laura Marcelli, Legal Director at the firm, the aim of the initiative is to demystify the profession and level the playing field for those from working-class backgrounds. The company believe in moving away from old ways of assessing people’s aptitudes to see where individuals’ skills actually lie.
We then heard from Head Start scholar Georgina Marshall, who praised DLA Piper for giving her a once in a lifetime opportunity. Georgina commented on how the programme has provided her with a voice and the confidence with which to further her career. Georgina advised others from less privileged backgrounds not to let their past hold them back from seeking out opportunities.
Adrian Johnson, senior consultant at Aon then took to the floor to explain the firm’s Step Up initiative, which attracts young people not in education, employment or training to get valuable experience and skills to enable them to enter the job market.He then introduced Step Up Scholar Matilda Allen. Now working as client manager at Aon, Matilda praised the programme for helping her build both her professional and personal confidence stating that ‘the door looks very shut from the outside world’.
The takeaway message from this motivating event was that talent comes in all shapes and sizes and that someone’s background is never a determinant of talent.