Employment opportunities denied to people from low socioeconomic backgrounds

Share Button

employment opportunitiesOver 50 percent of UK job seekers from low socioeconomic backgrounds miss out on employment opportunities, claims a study of over 2,200 people. The survey (registration), from EdTec startup Forage suggests that employers must refine their social mobility initiatives to achieve a fair recruitment process for all.

The report revealed a ‘systematic failure’ in the finding and nurturing of talent. Despite a UK record high of 1.2 million job vacancies in the three months to November 2021, over 50 percent of job seekers from low socioeconomic backgrounds said that they feel overlooked in the UK job market in comparison to their peers. The reality remains that despite the number of social mobility initiatives undertaken by employers, securing post-tertiary opportunities is not an equal journey for all, according to the report’s authors.

54 percent of Forage’s study participants identified as minority ethnic, 30 percent reported as being either a refugee, asylum seeker or migrant and 83 percent stated that they attended non-fee paying schools in the UK. When asked what employers should be doing, they said:

  • Incorporate blind interviews into the recruitment process – with no names or questions about ethnicity
  • Provide more skilling opportunities for those from low socioeconomic backgrounds
  • Transition away from an over-reliance on hires from Russell Group universities to level the playing field

In spite of government initiatives like the socio-economic diversity and inclusion employers’ toolkit and industries across the board experiencing staff shortages, the UK is ranked 21st on the global social mobility index, well behind most European countries. To tackle the problem and help employers to refine their social mobility initiatives, Forage recommends:

  • Engaging with individuals from underserved communities as early as secondary school to inspire them with the confidence to pursue new or seemingly unattainable career paths
  • Leveraging hiring signals beyond university or GPA (which can be more indicative of socioeconomic access than role performance), such as intent, ability and engagement
  • Facilitating exposure to skills needed for the workplace through free, virtual frameworks throughout the education journey


Virtual job simulations increase job application confidence by 96 percent

The UK Voice of the Forager report revealed that virtual job simulations are allowing those from less socially mobile backgrounds to gain the skills and experience they need to pursue professional careers. Employers often look for, or even ask for, work experience in applications for graduate schemes/jobs, but the Sutton Trust found that 20 percent of working class graduates could not afford to undertake a physical work placement. Forage’s study found that:

  • 70 percent of respondents completing a virtual job simulation felt generally more prepared to enter the world of work
  • 96 percent of respondents felt more confident to apply for a job having taken part in a virtual job simulation
  • 88 percent of students would recommend virtual job simulations to their peers
  • 45 percent of respondents said that neither of their parents attended university and 41 percent described themselves as having a low socioeconomic background
  • 37 percent stated that their highest education level is secondary school, followed by 34 percent with a bachelor’s degree and 17 percent with a graduate/advanced degree

Image: Toffs and Toughs, 1937 by Jimmy Sime