Teacher Simon Wareham didn’t know what to expect when he took a group of nine-year-old students on a day trip to PwC’s offices. “Newcastle is only half an hour from our school in Sunderland, but many of our students are not moving away from their hometown,” says Wareham, Deputy Principal and Career Director at Southmoor Academy. “We walked through the doors and their jaws hit the floor. Some children asked: ‘Do people really work in offices like this?’ They couldn’t believe it.”
The tour is part of PwC’s New World New Skills School initiative, which aims to give young people the opportunity to learn, work and gain employment and digital skills. In addition to office visits and lunches, Southmoor students participated in team building activities, gave presentations and worked on solutions to problems solved by PwC teams.
“It was a really good day for the students,” says Wareham. “Her confidence and problem-solving skills have definitely increased.” [back at school] Because they could relate what they were doing in the classroom to what they were experiencing in the real world. Many of them come from backgrounds where they usually go into the same job as their parents. We try to give them an idea that they can go into areas they hadn’t thought of before.”
Social mobility in the UK is lower than in any major European country and only 35% of adults believe that everyone has a fair chance of getting as far as they have to work hard. In areas with low social mobility, up to 33% of the wage gap is determined by family background, regardless of educational attainment. A 2021 PwC global survey found that 50% of respondents said they were relaxed about working with prejudice and 13% said they had faced discrimination based on their social class.
Five years ago, PwC developed a strategy to be recognized as an inclusive employer – one where people from diverse backgrounds can work, grow and thrive. The aim was to use their resources to enable people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to reach their full potential, whether at PwCs or elsewhere.
In 2021, the New World New Skills Schools initiative helped nearly 17,000 youth develop job skills. This is related to schools that had a higher than average proportion of students receiving free school meals and to locations with lower social mobility (where deprivation is most difficult to avoid). Research by the charity Education and Employers shows that young people who have four or more encounters with the world of work during their school years are 86% more likely to be looking for an apprenticeship, job or apprenticeship etc. Will Grow earns (on average) 18% more than his peers.
Holly Crompton, Head of Social Mobility at PwC, says companies of all sizes can take social mobility action. “It’s not just about corporate social responsibility. We do it because it’s good for the economy, good for society, and good for our future talent pipeline. We want people from different backgrounds to come to us. Come and work.”
The plan aims to introduce students to real-world office environments and tasks, e.g. B. Giving presentations. Photo: Monkey Business Images/Getty Images/iStockphoto
Crompton himself came to the company in 2004 through a high school graduate initiative, the equivalent of an apprenticeship. “Not coming from a bachelor’s degree got me excited about making sure we have different opportunities for different people to get involved in different ways.”
The Social Mobility Strategy encompasses four areas – recruitment, development and advancement, advocacy and community engagement (where the New World New Skills School initiative is based). In addition to in-person office visits, schools can access an online employability toolkit of lesson plans and resources, as well as a range of on-demand skills. There are also paid week-long internship opportunities during the summer holidays reserved for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds – 225 Year 12 students are taking part this year.
PwC also has an annual volunteer day, One Firm One Day, and this year several employees visited schools and conducted sessions with students on financial literacy, data analysis and team building. For example, following a visit to Southmoor Academy’s Newcastle offices, several PwC employees took the opportunity to hold workshops at the school on financial management, payroll classes and the importance of taxes.
Crompton says the company has hosted office visits to more than 70 schools, including more than 3,000 students, since autumn 2021, when in-person activities resumed after lockdown. Forest companies had contacted the One Day Activities.
Wareham opened the doors of Southmoor Academy to local businesses four years ago and is now involved in almost 200 initiatives such as work experience and school visits. “We thought the test results were great and good, but we realized that the students weren’t future-proof,” he says. “Although they could say they had reached the ninth level in English, they couldn’t talk about themselves and their abilities. [Businesses and schools] We must work together to ensure our youth achieve as much as possible.”
PwC also works internally to track the impact of socio-economic background on careers. It has significantly expanded the background data of its 24,000 UK employees and is in the process of analyzing the results. For the past five years, the company has been ranked in the top 10 of the Social Mobility Foundation’s Employer Index for its work in this area, and in 2021, for the first time, PwC voluntarily published the pay gap of their socio-economic background.
Crompton advises companies equally interested in making an impact to “learn from what you’ve done in other areas of diversity.” Many organizations are very forward thinking about how they deal with diversity issues such as gender and ethnicity. It can be applied to socio-economic backgrounds.”
As for Wareham, he has just received word that one of his 13 students has been accepted into PwC’s apprenticeship programme. “That’s why we do it. It’s about opening doors and broadening the horizons of students, regardless of their background. Everyone should have the same opportunities.”
Whether you’re just starting out or already have a lot of experience, find out more about career opportunities at PwC