Contractors back James Caan social mobility scheme

7 June 2013

Contractors Carillion, Wates, Mears and Mitie have signed up to a new scheme set up by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and new government social mobility tsar James Caan to help improve employment prospects for youngsters from underprivileged backgrounds.

The Opening Doors campaign forms part of Nick Clegg’s social mobility drive to help people from all walks of life. The four contractors join a list of more than 150 major UK organisations that have signed up to a “Business Compact” through which they commit to offering young people fair and open access to jobs and professions who might otherwise face barriers because of their background.

The campaign coincides with new research commissioned by a group of law firms from YouGov which shows that more than one in three young people aged 16 to 25 from higher social grades (ABC1) who indicated which industry they would like to work in already have a job in their chosen industry, but only one in 20 young people in lower social grades can make the same claim.

According to the research, 56% of young people from lower social grades say that the availability of work placements, including work experience, internships and apprenticeships, would help them get a job in their desired industry. In comparison, only 37% of young people thought the availability of work opportunities would help them.

Participating companies must aim to:

Signatories to the Business Compact will be able to enter the Opening Doors Business Awards, where categories include: Best Outreach programme for work with schools and communities; Best Work Placement scheme; and Best Recruitment scheme.

Carillion’s Stuart Jones

Here, the judges would be looking for an emphasis on attracting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and practices such as name blank CVs.

After signing up to Opening Doors, Carillion highlighted its support for employee and former-apprentice Stuart Jones, a 30-year-old head of customer service, who until applying to Carillion for help was struggling to gain a foothold on the career ladder.

Jones said: “After a dreadful stint in a local grocery store I managed to find work with Carillion in an entry level admin role, and I was then supported, encouraged and mentored through professional

qualifications and further development. In terms of social mobility I was living in my mum’s council house in Leyland when I started with Carillion but within two years I had moved into my own rented accommodation, within four years I had moved to Fulham in London, and now after six years with Carillion I’m on the senior management team.”

However, the scheme’s launch has been overshadowed by a row that erupted following Caan’s appointment as social mobility tsar this week. The 52-year-old private equity and recruitment tycoon faced allegations of hypocrisy after he suggested that parents should let children make their own way in life and not help them find work.

Caan claimed parents are too keen to secure work experience for their offspring and insisted finding a job should not be about “who you know rather than what you can do”. But it emerged his daughters Hanah, 25, and Jemma, 26, have both had jobs in companies he is involved in.

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