Businesses’ doors must be open to all, not just the few

By Michelle Quest, Head of People

It’s great to see that over 100 companies (including KPMG) have now signed up to the Deputy Prime Minister’s Business Compact to ensure that businesses’ doors are open to all, not just the few.


This is especially relevant now, given the tough employment market and the economic challenges facing the UK (and Europe as a whole).  It can be hard enough for young people to find their way in the world as it is, let alone having to contend with the ramifications of a major global economic downturn.


I believe that business has a responsibility to ensure that opportunities for employment are open to everyone, not just to a closed circle or club.  Fairness must be at the heart of all that businesses do – the “what you know, not who you know” culture, to use the Deputy Prime Minister’s phrase. 


After all, it is in a company’s best interests to access as a wide a talent pool as possible.  There are many extremely able and determined young people in this country who may not have been blessed with a privileged background – and we want to reach them.


That is why KPMG has been active in looking for ways to open up opportunities for a broader range of people.  We want to ensure that there is fair access to our profession.


Last summer we offered more than 150 internships that were open to all students to apply for.  By using these positions to develop new skills and deepen their appreciation of commercial issues, students are able to use the experience to enhance their skill set and employability.  Indeed, in around 90 percent of cases we go on to offer them a full time position at the firm.


In addition, our school leaver programme which offers a job, a university degree with all tuition fees paid by the firm and an accountancy qualification, has attracted a wide range of applicants.  Two thirds of students starting with us last September were from a state school background, compared to half on our traditional graduate recruitment programme – an encouraging sign that the scheme will be able to attract a broader social profile.


We are also committed to forging close relationships with schools.  At primary level, we have a long history of offering reading and numeracy support.  We are also in the process of developing closer ties with a significant number of secondary schools around the country, with the aim of increasing careers awareness and raising the aspirations of young people who might otherwise not consider that a corporate career could be for them.


There is much more to do, and all companies have a part to play.  But the Business Compact is a powerful sign of the direction of travel.

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