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More than a dozen firms vow to improve social mobility

More than a dozen law firms including Clifford Chance, Mishcon de Reya and Shoosmiths have pledged to improve social mobility at their organisations, after a survey found only half of young people feel the graduate recruitment market is inclusive of young talent from all backgrounds.

Seventy-seven per cent of students believe the pandemic has worsened inequalities for young people entering the graduate employment market, according to a survey of 2,000 university students by Bright Network, a platform that connects young people with graduate jobs and internships.

Young people are also likely to avoid organisations they do not think are doing enough to improve diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging. Three in 10 think organisations that take DEI seriously stand out, while nine in 10 say they will consider the diversity or inclusivity of an organisation before applying for a job.

Bright Network has developed a 10-point social mobility action plan to help organisations make their recruitment practices more inclusive.

Numerous major employers have shown their support for the plan, including those from sectors including law, financial services, technology, transport and academia.

The law firms that have pledged their support include: Bates Wells; Burges Salmon; Clifford Chance; Clyde & Co; Gowling WLG; Kennedys Law; Macfarlanes; Mishcon de Reya; Shoosmiths; Sidley Austin Brown And Wood LLP; Slaughter & May; Trowers & Hamlins; Watson, Farley & Williams LLP.

Bright Network wants to see employers provide additional support and coaching to candidates where stages of their application process could pose challenges to some groups. For example, 40% of Black heritage students told researchers that they are concerned about tests in the application process, compared to just 29% of the whole student population.

“The last two years have created a persistent decline in social mobility for today’s under-25s and the so-called ‘Covid generation’. Disadvantaged university students have felt this pandemic scarring acutely, often lacking the family or friend network to help them secure jobs after university,” said James Uffindell, founder and CEO of Bright Network.

“We passionately believe the early careers industry can work towards ensuring every young person has the opportunity to reach their potential. I am delighted over 100 organisations have put their voice and support behind this action plan and I would urge other major employers to follow suit – together we can create real and meaningful change.”

The 10-point action plan includes:

  • Transparency – identify social mobility indicators and analyse pipeline conversion at each stage in order to target disproportionate attrition of particular groups of candidates
  • Educate teams – engage external experts, schedule DEIB events and empower team members to be social mobility leaders involved in your recruitment planning
  • Build company-wide support networks – champion your company’s special interest groups internally and externally, as well as enhancing your outreach to relevant underrepresented groups
  • Find your role models – establish a formalised programme for enabling role models to be involved in early talent processes, engagement, and mentoring
  • Targeted and bespoke messaging – develop a schedule of activity to engage with underrepresented candidates, such as through events or industry wide initiatives
  • Change what’s measured – pre-empt stages of the application process that may put candidates at a disadvantage and consider new approaches to testing aptitude
  • Review traditional application criteria – reset restrictive requirements, such as around tier of university, school grades or internships over part-time work
  • Take risks – this is unchartered territory for many organisations, one which requires proactive change
  • Change routes to access – diversify how talent is engaged with, from new partnerships to unexplored graduate programmes
  • Champion outreach – open the doors to your recruitment processes to your teams and, ultimately, let them meet their future team members before they even start.

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