It’s good to see Alan Milburn’s report into Fair Access to the Professions (out today), which I think is very timely.
Most research suggests that social mobility has been declining in the UK for about 30 years. At the same time, the gap between the richest and the poorest in our society has also grown.
We think fair access to the professions could help social mobility in the UK get back on track.
The Chartered Accountancy profession has a history of being a driver of social mobility, attracting bright people from all backgrounds. That’s the reason we kept non-graduate routes into the profession open when others were closing them.
But, with recruiters from major businesses often choosing to recruit only from the top 19 Universities, we have felt over the past few years that we needed to do more to encourage talented but disadvantaged people into the profession.
We think this is not only in the public interest, but also in the profession’s interest. Research has shown that the top state school pupils (with the same A level grades) outperform the top private school students at University level. And we think a broad mix of experience is likely to be advantageous to the businesses our Chartered Accountants help. We’ve also seen some evidence that an increase in social mobility could help our economy grow in the long term by a quite significant amount.
So we are working on some schemes to help people get affordable training, whether at Universities or through apprenticeships. We also encourage our members to offer paid and properly advertised internships.
Today 17% of those training to be an ICAEW Chartered Accountant have not been to university.
One of the things we will be starting to do at ICAEW this year is monitor the background of people entering our profession, so we can see whether our work is having an impact.
This will take time, but watch this space.