More than 100 companies have signed up to Nick Clegg’s social mobility strategy and pledged to take concrete steps to open up work experience opportunities to young people from all backgrounds.

Signatories to the Government’s so-called ‘Business Compact’ include nearly 20 financial services companies such as Barclays and HSBC, 10 high street retailers including Tesco and Marks & Spencer and 10 law firms such as Allen & Overy and CMS Cameron McKenna.

Also on the list are 11 consumer brand manufacturers such as Coca-Cola and P&G and eight energy firms including BP and E.ON.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who first launched his social mobility strategy in April last year and plans to write to 50 other large UK companies asking them to sign up to the scheme, said: “This is an important step towards a society where it’s what you know, not who you know, that counts.”

Opening up their doors to young people marked “the start of a culture shift among major employers, driven by the belief that ability and drive should trump connections and privilege”, he added.

By agreeing to take part in the initiative, organisations agree to:

* Introduce mentoring schemes and encourage staff to go to schools to talk to pupils about their careers in order to help raise aspirations
* Advertise work experience places online, through schools and in other public forums rather than simply giving them to informal contacts, with the aim of ensuring that opportunities are made available to everyone and access is open and transparent
* Provide young people with financial support such as providing expenses or accommodation or treat the internship as a job that can be paid under National Minimum Wage law to ensure that those from less affluent backgrounds are not put off
* Recruit fairly and without discrimination using application forms that do not result in employers screening out candidates because they went to the wrong school or come from a different ethnic group. This includes using name-blank and school-blank application forms where appropriate.