From education to employment

Open University and Pathway Group working together in enabling social mobility in apprenticeships

OPEN University strives to work towards making learning and development key to improving social mobility in the workplace.

They have published a whitepaper titled: L&D’s role in enabling social mobility

The whitepaper defined what social mobility means in the workplace and highlights some of the hidden talent pools, often missed by both businesses and wider society.

It also said what Open University resources were available and examples of how the university has worked with individuals and employers to drive social mobility at work.

In support of the whitepaper, the OU recently took part in a webinar called Enabling Social Mobility in Apprenticeships, hosted by the Apprenticeship Diversity and Social Mobility Forum, a forum sharing knowledge and insights for social and economic development, run by The Pathway Group.

The webinar was opened by Head of Strategic Partnerships at the Pathway Group, Jagdeep Soor, who talked about the importance of social mobility, equality, diversity, inclusion and equity of opportunity.

“It’s pivotal to make positive change in the socio-economic issues, embracing the society we live in today and ultimately, improving the lives of marginalised communities,” he said.

Phil Kenmore, Director of Corporate Development and Partnerships at the OU, and Jessica Leigh Jones MBE, co-founder and CEO of the technology start-up Iungo Solutions and author of the whitepaper were also speakers at the webinar.

In his talk, Phil shared a few statistics that demonstrated the OU’s commitment to widening access to learning. The highlights were:

  • 26 per cent of OU undergraduates in the UK live in the 25 per cent most deprived areas
  • 77 per cent of OU undergraduates had no previous Higher Education qualifications on entry
  • 37,000 OU students have declared a disability

Phil said: “One of our key goals is equity, that’s core to everything we do. Social mobility underpins a huge amount of the work that we do and is foremost in a lot of our thinking.”

The OU sees itself as a social movement as much as a higher education institution.

The OU works with employers to deliver a wide range of apprenticeships and Skills Bootcamps, as it believes they are two vitally important ways that organisations can upskill their workforce, improve people’s social mobility and plug skills gaps at the same time.

Jessica a multi-award-winning engineer and entrepreneur, started her working life as an apprentice electrician.

She said: “I came through an inner-city Cardiff school in an area where there were not many opportunities, but there was a lot of talent. Somebody invested in me, somebody gave me an opportunity. I’m a firm believer that talent is everywhere, but opportunity often isn’t.”

As well as being the author of the whitepaper on behalf of the OU and TrainingZone, Jessica has also produced a video discussing its findings and why it’s important

Phil and Jessica believe that employers and learning institutions can help people unlock their talent, while at the same time improving organisational innovation, growth and creating more prosperous and resilient communities.

Case studies of OU learners: Mason (iungo Solutions), Fola (Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust) and Fiaz (North Yorkshire Police) were shared to illustrate social mobility in action.

In the second half of the webinar Edward Donkor, Head of Stakeholder Outreach at the Social Mobility Commission, talked about the importance of workplace learning opportunities such as apprenticeships to enable social mobility.

“It’s about ensuring that your socio-economic background doesn’t determine your outcomes in life,” he said.

“It’s about fairness.”

Kasim Choudhry, at Pathway Group, Multicultural Apprenticeship Ambassador and Events Director at The Pathway Group’s ThinkFest division, was the final speaker.

He began his talk by picking up on Jessica’s comments about equity.

“We need to understand what equity means,” he said.

“For me, equity is about understanding the challenges faced by each individual and how we can make sure it is a level playing field, so that we are all starting the race at the same level, as opposed to at the same starting point.”

Kasim thinks employers need to think about the meaning of equity and how they can make their organisations more equitable so that everyone can have access to opportunities, such as apprenticeships.

Pathway Group’s Founder and CEO Safaraz Ali commenting on the work of OU and Pathway Group stated: “I commend the OU leading the way, the case is that the need for wider participation, inclusion of minority communities and the celebration of diversity has never been greater and only through strategic partnership and alliances are we going to make the impact and work towards the outcomes we all desire.

“Therefore, we at Pathway Group are open to conversations and as we say everything starts with a conversation.”

Download the whitepaper L&D’s role in enabling social mobility

Learn more about Open University apprenticeships

“Pictured Pathway Ceo Safaraz Ali attending the event”

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