Gossipy news headlines and serious talk shows – this morning’s Today Programme included – are all busy debating James Caan’s hypocrisy today. He was appointed Social Mobility Tsar yesterday, and, perhaps foolishly, said in his inaugural remarks in the role that too many parents help their kids out with finding work experience placements. Perhaps foolishly, because the press has (rightly) called him out on the fact that he has given his two daughters jobs – one at his own company and one in a firm he has invested in.
It’s an interesting debate, the old “how much should you help your kids out?” I’m sure every parent reading this will have grappled with it, and all other readers remotely interested in social mobility and equal opportunity will have a view on Caan’s hypocrisy.
The trouble is, the furore has completely overshadowed something really good that James Caan is doing today, alongside Nick Clegg.
The two of them spent the first few hours of this morning driving around with a talented bunch of under-privileged young people to help promote Clegg’s new Opening Doors campaign.
This campaign sees more than 150 major UK organisations sign up to offer fair and open access to their jobs for young people, overlooking their background.
This is immensely important. New research from YouGov out today finds that more than one in three 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%). Only one in 20 young people in lower social grades can make the same claim.
The Opening Doors campaign hopes to counteract this by getting those companies that have signed up to work with local communities and schools to “raise aspirations, ensuring fair and formal access to work opportunities with financial assistance and recruiting openly and fairly”.
Sure, that might sound a bit fluffy to you, and, yes, there’s never any guarantee that these commitments will be stuck to. But isn’t some action better than none? And shouldn’t we commend all initatives to try to equalise opportunity for young people of all backgrounds?
This isn’t just about London businesses doing their part to create a fairer society – because, as we must all admit, that is far lower on most CEO’s priority list than surviving and growing over the coming months. This is about discovering and recruiting the top talent you can to build your business.
Because if, in whatever subconscious and inadvertent way, for whatever societal reasons, businesses are overlooking young people from certain backgrounds, they are potentially missing out on some very fine talent indeed.
Tim Campbell MBE, founder of The Bright Ideas Trust and former Apprentice winner, recently wrote a piece for us explaining that all the large businesses he works with say that young people they recruit through apprenticeships rather than as graduates tend to work harder, stay longer in the role, and often demonstrate better workplace skills.
By overlooking those from less privileged backgrounds, businesses are missing out.
As Nick Clegg said in his statement about Opening Doors: “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.”
Whatever you make of James Caan’s comments, it’s hard to argue with his Opening Doors partner Nick Clegg on that.
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