By Neil Stevenson, executive director – brand, ACCA
“Tackling the financial deficit is the Coalition’s most immediate task. But tackling the opportunity deficit – creating an open, mobile society – is our guiding purpose,” so says Nick Clegg in his foreword to the Government’s new social mobility strategy ‘Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers’.
The Government and Nick Clegg should be applauded for placing social mobility at the front and centre of attention. As Nick Clegg said at the launch of the strategy yesterday afternoon, it’s not right that ‘birth equals destiny’. As Alan Milburn pointed out at the same event, those born poor are likely to die poor too.
This is wrong. It isn’t fair or just, and it’s something that ACCA has always stood against. We were founded in 1904 with the express purpose of widening access to the accountancy profession to help talented individuals find rewarding employment opportunities regardless of their background.
Access to the profession has been a key focus for us over the past century; our position is summarised in our recent policy briefing, ‘Climbing the ladder’.
We’ve been invited by the Government to sign up to their Business Compact on social mobility and we have been delighted to do so. As a leading global professional body for accountants and as an employer we’re proud to support genuine attempts to improve social mobility.
We will work hard to honour the Business Compact, through our work with schools to promote accountancy as a career, by working closely with the 8,500 employers worldwide who employ ACCA qualified or qualifying staff, and as an employer that recruits openly and fairly. We can all learn too from exciting initiatives from leading organisations such as PwC, who hosted yesterday’s launch event.
The real question is whether this is still the guiding principle of government by the next election in 2015. Social mobility is an issue that can’t be dealt with through quick fixes; results won’t be seen overnight. Government needs to maintain a laser-like focus on social mobility for the long-term: “there is no magic wand,” admits Clegg.
Improving social mobility requires dedication and hard work, but we believe the benefits are worth it. Social mobility not only improves the lives of individuals but can enhance business performance – which is of genuine value to the economy and society alike.