Social mobility for young people will help solve skills shortages and drive diversity

Dr Nicki Clegg, Industry Stakeholder Relationship Manager at STEM Learning, looks at the many benefits to employers for having focused interventions on social mobility – and provides guidance for engaging with young people and schools.

When you investigate the data, social mobility is a compelling option for delivering economic and social value, solving our skills shortages and increasing diversity.  

Data from the latest Tech Talent Charter (TTC) annual report shows that only 9% of tech employees are reported to be from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. This compares to 39% of the UK population. TTC also has data that shows that where organisations have focused their interventions on social mobility, their diversity levels were higher across protected characteristics. For example, in companies with interventions for social mobility the average proportion of ethnic minority tech employees was 6% higher compared to the UK tech workforce as a whole. 

What we are often missing are the systematic and structured approaches needed to drive social mobility. Recent impact data from The Career & Enterprise Company shows that connecting with young people as a key source of talent can be achieved through effective school and college engagement programmes. Over 360 employers - who collectively employ over a million people in the UK - were surveyed, and:  

  • 83% said their work in schools and colleges is helping them develop new talent pipelines  
  • 86% said their work is supporting more young people to take up careers in their industry 
  • 72% said it improves the effectiveness of early years recruitment 

 Engaging with schools doesn’t just help your business talent pipeline - it also helps your employees, and teachers. Impact data from the STEM Ambassadors initiative, delivered by STEM Learning, shows that:  

  • 90% of volunteers said it increases their sense of satisfaction with their work 
  • 96% of volunteers said their experiences enhanced their ability to communicate with a range of audiences 
  • Over 90% reported improvements in presentation skills and relationship building and networking 
  • 90% of young people said engaging with volunteers increased their understanding of why STEM subjects are important particularly in the workplace 
  • 90% of educators said engaging with STEM Ambassadors improved their own knowledge of STEM careers, and 86% said engaging had improved their enthusiasm for teaching STEM subjects

So what proactive steps can businesses take to start to engage young people and schools?

Start by identifying the outcomes most valuable to your organisation. Here are some actionable steps:

  1. Identify clear outcomes you want to achieve: Increased employee engagement, increased employee skills and resilience, social value delivery, local impact/national impact, increased brand awareness, increased talent pipeline, increased team diversity, community engagement, engagement of a particular age group or demographic of students.

  2. Identify your budget: Consider areas such as recruitment, employee learning and development, employee engagement, brand awareness, and ESG delivery as potential sources of budget.

  3. Create a volunteering policy that allows your employees to take time out of their working day to volunteer.

  4. Find platforms and partners that can support you with what you want to achieve. For schools and community engagement, STEM Ambassadors have been inspiring young people in classrooms (in person and remotely) for more than 20 years...and it’s free to use them!

  5. Build a meaningful programme of activities that can be delivered simply and easily by your employees year after year. You can use the CEC standards, employers guide to supporting STEM careers education in England, and Guide to volunteering for new and experienced STEM Ambassadors as a starting point.

  6. Work with schools that are not already over-subscribed with volunteers and careers advice and consider hybrid solutions, both in person and virtual, to help reach more young people eg in rural or coastal communities.

  7. Partner with others from your ecosystem: Engage your supply chain and identify your key customers or clients to be part of your volunteering programme. This will strengthen connections between your organisations.

  8. Be prepared to track, adapt, and innovate: Ensure that you move with the times and don't endlessly repeat a once successful model. Honestly evaluate after each engagement and reflect on where improvements can be made.

To find our more about how to engage schools for talent diversity and resilience, read this business case and practical employer guide by STEM Learning on why it's a great idea and how to do it:

STEM Learning - business case for engaging with schools-1

To find out more about social mobility in tech, explore some of Tech Talent Charter's other resources on socio-economic diversity in their D&I Open Playbook chapter on Social Mobility.

Join the Tech Talent Charter: if you're not yet a Signatory of the Tech Talent Charter, join STEM Learning and more than 800 other Signatory organisations who are working to improve diversity in tech, together.