Sarah Willows, CFO and Head of Operations, KPMG in the UK, explains why supporting disadvantaged young people to access jobs in the firm is good for business.
Last November’s State of the Nation 2016 report, published by the Social Mobility Commission, revealed that social mobility in the UK is in decline. And the report is clear: to transform social mobility, the public, private and third sector must work together to ensure that everyone can fulfil their potential. This is not just a matter of fairness and equality of opportunity, but an economic necessity if the UK is to continue to compete on the global stage.
Nowhere is this more relevant than accessing the untapped talent of the more than 800,000 young people who, this year, were not in education, training or employment (NEET). Not only can sustained unemployment have devastating consequences for the physical and mental health of these young people, it is a missed opportunity to develop the skills that our country’s businesses so clearly need.
As one of the Government’s 11 founding Social Mobility Business Compact Champions, appointed by the former Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, we aim to lead the way in making a lasting difference to social mobility in the UK by weaving it into the fabric of our firm. This is why one of our key priorities has been to develop new entry routes into our firm for young people that may not have thought they had an opportunity to join through conventional means.
One such programme, the KPMG Business Support Academy (BSA), which is now in its fourth year, targets young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter our central services function via an apprenticeship in business administration. Through working with specialist charity partners and local authorities, we have successfully targeted young people who are at a particularly high risk of becoming NEET, including care-leavers and young carers.
Our BSA team work closely with local councils (Croydon Council, Hackney Learning Trust and Birmingham City Council) and social workers to provide the opportunity for looked-after children to understand, prepare and apply.
Our apprentices have proven to be an asset to our firm and an important talent pipeline. Thanks to the exposure they get to the business and the skills they develop as part of the programme, over 80% of those who have completed the apprenticeship have gone on to permanent positions within our firm. The issue of supporting youth employment remains fundamental in society, and we will continue to grow and develop our scheme to ensure it is an opportunity for a wide and diverse group of young talent.
Supporting people from disadvantaged backgrounds to make the most of their potential is the golden thread which runs through all of our corporate responsibility work, whether through delivering employability sessions to people at risk of homelessness, or providing mentoring to students in disadvantaged areas. It’s at the core of our global citizenship strategy, with its focus on quality education and lifelong learning as the foundation for social mobility that can support people out of poverty. It’s about seeing potential, regardless of background, and supporting people to make the most of the their talents for the benefit of society as a whole. This is why we are proud to support the See Potential employment campaign, and would urge other businesses to consider the benefits of employing people from diverse backgrounds.
This isn’t just about being a responsible business, though that is an important element of it. At KPMG we believe that increasing the diversity of our workforce is vital to the long term sustainability of our firm – keeping us competitive. It ensures that we have the diversity of thought and experience to help solve our clients’ complex challenges and will ensure we remain at the forefront of our industry.
This work is complemented by the work of the KPMG Foundation. Established in 2001 and funded by KPMG, the Foundation has the objective of unlocking potential of children in the UK who, for primarily social reasons, have not achieved their education potential. It specifically supports projects that unlock potential of children and young people on the edge of care, in or leaving care and in deprived families.