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Businesses must play their part in creating opportunities


As seen on London First.


In the UK, your background: where you grew up, what your parents did for a living, still play too big a role in defining career opportunities. That’s just not fair.

Research shows you are more likely to be in a professional job if you are from a more privileged background, rather than a working-class one*. Britain’s most influential people are over five times more likely to have been to a fee-paying school than the general population and this becomes evident when looking at professions like Senior Judges - with around two thirds attending private schools and 71% graduating from Oxbridge**.

Whilst, the narrative is often focused on the professional and financial services sector, it goes beyond that and we see the same trends in the food and hospitality service, despite there being less barriers to entry.  So why are those from lower socio-economic backgrounds still at such a disadvantage and what can be done about it?

We often talk about the important role of education for children and young people in enhancing opportunities within society. There is no doubt this is key, but we have to accept that this isn’t the only route and education has not acted as a great social leveller for all. Additionally educational attainment levels post-Covid have been negatively impacted, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is why we believe the role of businesses is integral to making progress – this is an opportunity, which also carries with it a strong business case, in terms of the retention and recruitment of talented people.

At our recent Social Mobility event, we heard from Professor Lee Elliot Major OBE, who is the country’s first Professor of Social Mobility. He suggested businesses need to help by taking steps such as –

  • developing an equity approach.
  • acknowledging the experiences of people's development.
  • recognising human talent comes in many forms.

Sectors like hospitality and retail are people businesses – our people are our assets.  At Compass we often provide that precious first rung on the ladder which is crucial particularly where someone has not achieved academically. Regardless of academic achievement or the level at which someone joins us, we want them to develop, thrive and reach their potential. We have many great examples of senior leaders who started their career in frontline/entry level roles. To support this, we invest heavily in apprenticeships and career pathways which clearly define routes to more senior roles. Working with partners such as Springboard, West Lea and Care Leavers Covenant enable us to attract people who face barriers to employment, creating opportunities for them and a more diverse talent pool for us.   

Our Social Promise, aims to positively impact one million lives by 2030, from both within and outside the organisation through job creation, education, training, community and charitable engagement. This commitment drives us to create tangible change for our people and wider society. We all have a role to play in tackling social mobility, by investing in the workforce of the future. Government, businesses and the third sector need to join together, to drive social justice and in turn economic progress.


Amanda Scott, Talent, Learning, and D&I Director – Compass Group UK & Ireland

*Social Mobility Commission - State of the nation 2021: Social mobility and the pandemic

** Social Mobility Commission - Elitism in Britain, 2019 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Amanda Scott, Talent, Learning, and D&I Director