From education to employment

Grant Thornton welcomes school leavers and celebrates the success of its social mobility measures

On the day of A-level results, leading business and financial adviser, Grant Thornton UK LLP, has announced that it will welcome over 70 school leavers in 2016/2017.

The firm has also released analysis demonstrating that the changes it has made to its selection processes for its school leaver and graduate trainee programmes, including the removal of academic barriers to entry, have widened access to those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Importantly, it found that employees who would not have met the previous academic hurdles* are performing just as strongly as those who did meet it.

The analysis has been carried out by The Bridge Group, a charitable policy association researching and promoting social mobility. It included an in-depth piece of analysis involving 20,000 trainee candidates for both school leavers and graduates, conducted three years after Grant Thornton removed academic barriers to entry.

17% of Grant Thornton’s intake for school leaver and graduate programmes in 2016 would have been previously unable to apply based on academic criteria, including secondary school performance and degree classification.

Looking at the 2014/2015 intake and data from the annual performance review process, 38% of those who would have been previously screened out due to academic requirements are considered to be strong performers, compared to 34% of those who would have passed the previous screening.

As well as flexible academic entry, Grant Thornton took several other measures aimed at increasing the diversity of its intake. The firm removed the emphasis on relevant work experience and extra-curricular achievements, invested in providing one-to-one coaching calls for all candidates before and after first round interviews, and created online communities for candidates to encourage peer-to-peer networking. The Bridge Group analysis found that candidates’ socioeconomic background had a very small or no effect on success at every stage of the firm’s selection process.

Grant Thornton UK LLP has offered 77 places on its School Leavers Programme. This year, Grant Thornton saw a 47% increase in applications for the programme, with trainees joining the firm across 20 different office locations.

Five of the people joining the firm’s School Leaver Programme have taken part in the Access Accountancy work experience programme, an industry-wide social mobility initiative. The firm’s CEO Sacha Romanovitch is also chair of the scheme’s Patron Group.

Rachel Hill, Social Mobility Senior Manager at Grant Thornton, comments:

“We started our social mobility journey over three years ago with a vision for the firm to be more representative at all levels of the socioeconomic demographic of wider society. More young people are considering different routes into the world of work, with some preferring to consider school leaver programmes over higher education. Regardless of what age they choose to join the workforce, we believe that our profession should be open to those who have talent and ambition, regardless of socioeconomic background.

“While there is more to be done, we are proud of our achievements so far, which include being recognised by government as a Champion of the Social Mobility Business Compact. The Bridge Group analysis shows that the proportion of candidates who were successful in gaining a place on our trainee scheme but would not have met previous academic requirements are from a more diverse range of socioeconomic backgrounds than the wider population. This demonstrates that our interventions are working and we are hopeful that it will inspire other firms to review their approach to entry level recruitment and inform future policies and practices.

“Creating a diverse workforce is not only good for us as a firm, but also for our people and clients and for the future of our vibrant economy where people, businesses and communities can thrive. We are proud to be widening access to opportunity, regardless of background.”

Nik Miller, Director, The Bridge Group, said:

“There is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that Grant Thornton’s investment in a more diverse workforce is paying off. The extent to which the firm has been willing to take measured risks, to robustly assess the impact of its policy changes, and the commitment from senior colleagues, is to be celebrated.

“This locates the firm at the heart of a community of organisations that are realising more equal access to the professions and, as a consequence, gaining competitive advantage by accessing new talent and unlocking improved performance.”

Case Study:

Luke McCormick, 18, from Manchester, will be joining Grant Thornton’s School Leaver Programme at the end of August, following a placement on the Access Accountancy scheme. He commented, “The Access Accountancy Scheme provided an invaluable opportunity to explore the profession in ways I never knew were possible. I am really pleased to be joining Grant Thornton’s School Leaver Programme. I decided I would rather start work straight after leaving school rather than attending university because you get to experience the true nature of the job first hand and gain invaluable insight and knowledge through working with experts in the profession every day. I can’t wait to start with the firm this summer.”


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