At Hanover, we are proud to run our INspire outreach programme. Through INspire, we work with schools, colleges and universities to promote social mobility by giving careers talks to budding comms and PR professionals, offering insights on how we broke into the industry ourselves and how they can too.
I recently had the privilege of speaking at one of these sessions, when it occurred to me that there was an amusing irony in giving a careers talk at a university having very nearly not made it into higher education myself. As a white, working-class male my experience is not particularly uncommon.
A recent report by the House of Commons Education Select Committee found that in 2018/19, only half of free school meal-eligible White British pupils met the expected standard of development at the end of the early years foundation stage, one of the lowest percentages for any disadvantaged ethnic group.
The proportion of these pupils progressing to start higher education by the age of 19 in 2018/19 was 16%, the lowest of any ethnic group other than travellers of Irish heritage and Gypsy/Roma.
The barriers facing students from a lower socioeconomic background in deciding on their next steps post-school and choosing their future career are varied and complex.
Whilst I did fairly well in my GCSEs, I was never sure that university was for me. No one in my family had been and once I reached college, I also felt out of place among my peers, who had very different experiences to me growing up.
I began to feel increasingly disillusioned with the education system. It seemed that there was a one size fits all approach, and that further education was an exam factory churning out a generation of debt-dependents, whilst taking no recognition of the societal barriers some students might face.
It was this feeling which, in part, led to me dropping out of college on AS results day. When I later decided that I wanted to give education another try, it became clear that there were very few opportunities for people who had taken a less conventional route – until I stumbled across the Open University.
Accelerating social mobility is an important cause for Hanover, and through various initiatives we are striving to break down the barriers that prevent people from realising their full potential.
The Open University was founded to promote greater equality of opportunity and social mobility. For me, it did just this – and after a year with them, I applied to the University of Sussex who made me an offer based on the merit of my Open University experience.
Whilst at Sussex, I sought practical, hands-on experience of the material I was studying on my politics degree. I volunteered with my local MP, Peter Kyle, and after a summer spent working in his office and travelling the country campaigning in the EU referendum and local elections, he offered me a permanent, part-time job around my studies.
This proved to be the springboard for my career in communications and public affairs. I am however very aware that it was an experience I was incredibly fortunate to have. It is also an opportunity that so many others with my background never receive – whether as a result of structural barriers in our education system and the workplace, or an absence of mentors and the wider challenges associated with growing up in deprivation.
Social mobility is a huge and complicated challenge. Continued improvement is needed within the education sector and the Government is actively focusing on the issue through its levelling up agenda. Crucially, employers also have a duty to unlock access to opportunities.
That’s why I’m proud to work for Hanover Communications, an organisation that not only recognises its duty, but wholeheartedly embraces it. Accelerating social mobility is an important cause to Hanover, and through various initiatives we are striving to break down the barriers that prevent people from realising their full potential, as well as extending opportunities to those who might not otherwise have considered a career in communications and public affairs.
In addition to our INspire outreach programme, we were delighted to have recently taken part in the Social Mobility Foundation’s Employer Index 2021. We are now working to encourage fellow employers to sign up. We are also running an internal mentoring programme, and during the pandemic we launched paid virtual internships, with a focus on social mobility ‘cold spots’.
There is no quick fix to these issues, but by recognising and acting on our responsibility to break down the barriers to social mobility we can all play a part in unleashing untapped potential – irrespective of a person’s background.