By Marianne Fallon, Head of Corporate Affairs at KPMG in the UK
Accountancy as a profession makes up 1.1 percent of the total employee population in the UK. Alan Milburn, the UK’s social mobility tsar, identified it as having had the largest decline of all professions in social mobility in the twelve years up to 1970.
Unless this trend reverses, within 10-15 years we will be looking at a profession that is dominated by individuals from economically advantaged backgrounds – hardly representative of society. What this will mean is that too many able children from average income, and low-income, households will lose out in the race for professional jobs.
It is generally recognised that the country’s future prosperity and growth will be underpinned by the professions. This expansion will require recruitment of the most talented people from all backgrounds.
Ensuring fair access means everyone having an equal chance to realise their potential – this will require tackling several related barriers to employment in the professions.
That’s why KPMG, together with 18 other accountancy firms and professional bodies, has launched a new, ambitious social mobility drive. It’s designed to provide greater opportunities to talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds across the country.
Called Access Accountancy, it will focus on the needs of young people in schools, profession-wide messaging and reach into schools. It will also look at access to practical experiences of work in accountancy firms and understanding the socio-economic background of recruits.
Our commitment begins with the work experience programme for year 12 students this summer in our London, Manchester, Leeds, Reading and Birmingham offices. We will offer 130 students an insight into life at KPMG.
Through Access Accountancy organisations are together pledging:
- to offer a minimum of 3750 work placements over five years for target students across the profession. This number is expected to grow as the scheme develops
- to collect and share detailed socio-economic data on applicants every year so that progress in widening access can be benchmarked and regularly measured
- to take part in an independent external evaluation of the initiative
- a school outreach programme to increase awareness amongst young people of the opportunities and entry routes available
There is no doubt that we all need to do more to provide entry routes into the profession for a wider range of talented young people. We are very excited about this programme and believe that it will make a real and lasting difference. We want the accountancy profession to reflect the society it serves. Access Accountancy is about opening the door to anyone who has the potential, the talent and the desire to succeed, whatever their background.