Anna Trocme Latter, Head of Impact and Continuous Improvement at Career Ready, shares how the latest State of the Nation report by the Social Mobility Commission provides a welcome framework for approaching the social mobility challenge.

At Career Ready we believe that overcoming the social mobility challenge can’t be done in isolation. That’s why we welcome the Social Mobility Commission’s (SMC’s) latest State of the Nation 2022 report, which provides refreshing insight into the scale of the social mobility challenge and how we must look at the entire social fabric to ensure that life opportunities are fair for all.

More than kids from council estates becoming CEOs

All too often in our sector discussion about social mobility has been focused on how we can help the most talented, yet underrepresented young people, go on to achieve their potential in life; kickstarting careers in law, medicine, or finance.

Whilst this is something we applaud and encourage, and something we’ve helped countless young people achieve through our programmes, it’s also critical that we remember that social mobility should be more than helping kids from council estates to become CEOs.

It was refreshing, therefore, to see this openly acknowledged in the ‘State of the Nation’ report, especially in regard to how a focus on the talented few does not translate into enhanced social mobility for the many.

“Too many interventions have focused on getting people to leave the place where they grew up, acquire brilliant academic credentials, and gain entry into an elite professional occupation.” –State of the Nation 2022, Social Mobility Commission

The report expresses a need to “move away from a narrow focus on ‘long’ upward mobility – moving a few from the ‘bottom’ into the ‘top’ – to a broader view of different kinds of social mobility, sometimes over shorter distances, for a greater number of people.”

The importance of place

Another of the report’s welcome recommendations is a focus on place and the need to ensure that opportunities are not determined by postcode. Linked to this is the fact that there are geographies and communities where “educational and economic outcomes appear to be poor across generations”.

This is a strand of social mobility that we feel passionate about at Career Ready. Indeed, our 2020 research with Opinium found that participating in our programme made young people less likely to leave the area they grew up in, thereby contributing to upward local social mobility and the levelling up of communities.

And to help ensure that people’s communities are at the heart of our social mobility approach, we’re delighted to have launched a fund to enable SMEs in cold spots around the UK to provide paid internships for Career Ready students, ensuring that opportunities are available in their home towns.

How we measure social mobility progress

The most interesting feature of the Social Mobility Commission’s new report is a new approach to measuring social mobility in the UK. This is designed to capture a more holistic and accurate picture of social mobility with a view to facilitating more informed policy decisions.

The idea of “distance travelled” is intrinsically linked to the way social mobility is measured. This is traditionally done in one of two ways: occupational class (e.g.  ‘working-class’ jobs such as shop assistants or ‘professional and managerial jobs such as CEO) and income. These two measures are not necessarily correlated, however – for example, a nurse earning a salary of £25k is in a higher occupational class than a plumber on £40k – and they are often used in isolation.

State of the Nation 2022 recognises the limitations of traditional social mobility measurement and highlights the importance of factors such as wealth, housing, and education. Moreover, this new index will take a more longitudinal approach, examining individuals’ outcomes in their 30s and their 50s to truly determine social mobility

At Career Ready, we agree that destinations – whether or not someone is in education, employment, or training – are vital. But wider metrics, such as skills, confidence and agency, are also extremely important, both for the wellbeing of the individual and the likelihood of them achieving a sustained, positive destination.

We look forward to seeing how the new social mobility index progresses, using it as a tool to inform how we measure our impact, and learning from what it can tell us about social mobility in the UK.

Find out more about how Career Ready measures its impact.

Read more news and views: