The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has encouraged some of the largest companies in the UK to sign up to his ‘Opening Doors’ campaign. This means they have committed to actively encouraging those from less privileged backgrounds to apply for roles and opportunities within their business. Organisations such as Barclays and Fujitsu helped the DPM promote the scheme with former Dragon’s Den judge James Caan to make access to jobs fair and open for all talented young people.

Launching a major new campaign, they will call on companies – large and small – to sign up and open their doors to young people from all walks of life.

The Opening Doors campaign is part of the Deputy Prime Minister’s social mobility drive. Over 150 of the UK’s major organisations have already signed up to offering fair and open access to their jobs and professions for young people, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

New YouGov research for the campaign published today suggests that young people in lower social grades (C2DE) are several rungs behind on the career ladder. Over a third of 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 (33 per cent), compared to just five per cent of young people in lower social grades.

The research, commissioned by a number of UK law firms for the campaign, also suggests that young people from higher social grades have greater access to work opportunities in the search for their ideal career. The majority of young people from lower social grades (56 per cent) say availability of work opportunities – including work experience, internships and apprenticeships – would help them get a job in their desired industry. Whereas only around a third of young people from more privileged backgrounds (37 per cent) thought the availability of work opportunities would help them.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“We have a big problem in this country. Every year employers are closing their doors to talented young people. This is a terrible waste of talent and potential that could be otherwise boosting our economy and driving growth in our businesses.

“In good times this would be tragic. In tough economic times, it is unforgivable. Today I’m on a mission to ask companies, large and small, to open their doors to the incredible talent out there and sign up to our campaign.”

To tackle the barriers to getting the jobs that young people are capable of and want to do, the Deputy Prime Minister has asked James Caan and Peter Searle, CEO of Adecco Group, the UK’s largest recruiter, to launch the Opening Doors Awards. The Awards, to be judged by Caan and Searle later this year, will be for companies that are doing outstanding work in this area.

James Caan said:

“I’ve worked extremely hard to get where I am today, but I know that other people who have a similar background to me struggle to get the skills and training they need to get jobs or get into business.

“That’s why I’m joining forces with the Deputy Prime Minister – together we are committed to ensuring that no matter where you’re from, who your parents are, or what school you went to, you should be able to succeed in life and fulfil your potential by creating a fairer process to get a job.”

The campaign calls on companies that are not signed up to the Opening Doors campaign to do so, and for those companies to nominate themselves to win awards and promote best practice. Signing up to the campaign means that organisations commit to working with local schools and communities to raise aspirations, ensuring fair and formal access to work opportunities with financial assistance and recruiting openly and fairly.

Peter Searle, CEO of Adecco Group UK & Ireland, said:

“Businesses need to change their recruitment practices to reflect the social diversity of the UK today. A key issue facing all businesses is the rise of the ‘lost workforce’ – a generation of young people who sit on the periphery of employability. At Adecco, we work closely with our clients to help them understand what the barriers to entry are for this passionate and aspirational generation. Without action, many organisations will lose the opportunity to access this future talent pool.”

Research for the campaign is encouraging in that it shows young people who have indicated which industry they would most like to work in, are optimistic about their career goals, with 69 per cent believing they are likely or very likely to get the job they want. And just one in seven young people (14 per cent) think that people with the same background as them don’t tend to get a job in this industry.

However, the ‘who you know, not what you know’ culture, which can prevent young people from accessing information and work experience in their chosen field, still exists as a barrier in some professions. The survey shows that almost a third (29 per cent) of young people who indicated which industry they would like to work in, believe that they don’t have the right contacts to get their preferred job.

To help overcome these barriers, 38 per cent of young people think a mentor who works in their chosen field could help them get their preferred job. Many young people also want greater access to companies from their chosen industry, saying they would find it useful for companies to come into schools colleges and universities (25 per cent, 18 per cent, 20 per cent respectively).

Launching the campaign, the Deputy Prime Minister has invited 120 young people from across the country to take part in a ‘Talent Tour’ across London. Young people, who applied for the opportunity through the website MyKindaCrowd, will board double-decker buses at the Guildhall in London before going on a tour of some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the capital from a range of sectors – banking, media, finance, law, tech, creative and IT. Companies on the tour are Barclays (banking), Channel 4 (media), CMS Cameron McKenna, Random House, O2, Fujitsu, PWC, Siemens and Slaughter & May.

Will Akerman, Managing Director of MyKindaCrowd said:

“Every day, MyKindaCrowd works with young people who all too often find that opportunities are closed to them because they either haven’t gone to the right school or haven’t got the right connections. Mission: Open Doors is a fantastic initiative in partnership with the DPM’s Office and MyKindaCrowd to engage such young people, provide them with face-to-face interaction with the leaders of UK industry, and show them that the doors to their future success in the world of work are in fact wide open.”

The campaign is already having an impact on how companies recruit and offer opportunities to young people. A survey of the 150 companies signed up to the campaign reveals that the majority of companies who are signed up (57 per cent) have increased contact with disadvantaged school since joining the campaign. The vast majority (93 per cent) think fair and open recruitment will open up their company to a broader range of talent. And 82 per cent say fair and open recruitment creates a workforce with a wider range of people which better reflects their client base.

The YouGov research was commissioned by Allen & Overy LLP, CMS Cameron McKenna and Clifford Chance who have worked for several years to broaden access to the legal profession alongside other law firms and who are signed up to the Opening Doors campaign.