UK Government

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: Government acts to break through glass ceiling on social mobility

Press Release   •   Jan 18, 2010 11:23 GMT

Business Minister, Pat McFadden, is today confirming the Government’s commitment to promoting the aspirations of all young people, whatever their background, and putting social mobility at the heart of plans for growth and success in the global economy.

The Government’s ambitious response to Unleashing Aspiration, the final report from the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, agrees to implement the vast majority of the panel’s 88 recommendations.

The Panel, led by the Rt Hon Alan Milburn MP, challenged Government to do more to ensure that people with ability, creativity and talent can succeed in the professions, regardless of their social or economic background. Achieving this aspiration calls for reform in schools, in colleges, in universities and in the professions themselves.

The measures announced today look to harness activity across Government and the professional associations. They include:

·         The creation of an online National Internship Service, building on success of the ‘Graduate Talent Pool’. This free, nationwide service will help undergraduates and graduates access opportunities and information to develop their employability skills and establish quality standards to benefit both interns and employers.  Bursary funding will be available for students from low income backgrounds lacking the means to support themselves.  This follows the commitment in the Pre-Budget Report to deliver £8m funding for up to 10,000 new undergraduate internships.

·         A guarantee, building on the New Opportunities White Paper published last year, for around 130,000 of the brightest young people from low-income backgrounds to benefit from structured assistance at secondary school. Beginning in 2012, this package should include experience of Higher Education, mentoring and access to high quality information, advice and guidance.

·         A new Social Mobility Commission to provide expert evidence on trends and policy on social mobility, and produce an annual report on progress made towards a fairer, more socially mobile society.

·         The launch of an expanded Gateways to the Professions Collaborative Forum with an increased remit covering a wider range of professions. Chaired by David Lammy, the Minister for Higher Education and involving senior representatives from 60 key professions. The Forum will advise on and implement many of the panel’s recommendations and will ask professional organisations to report on and share work done to improve access in each of their fields.

Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, said:

“My mission is to ensure that all of Britain’s people, from every background, are given the opportunity to develop their talents and learn the skills which will transform their lives. And this social mobility must be rooted in our core value of fairness.

“In many ways society is already fairer. Six hundred thousand children have been lifted out of poverty, record numbers of our young people are going to university, one in three people of working age is a member of a profession, and the gender pay gap has narrowed.

“But we can't be a truly aspirational society if some people are still denied the chance to get on, and although we have raised the glass ceiling we have yet to break it. That is why our priority will be to remove all the barriers that are holding people back.”

The Government response was co-ordinated by Minister of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Pat McFadden. He said:

“There are still great causes in politics and ensuring that people can achieve their potential based on their talent, hard work and character, regardless of their background, race or gender is one such great cause.  We have made progress in raising, but must now break through, the glass ceiling of social mobility in this country.

“This isn’t about class war – the real class war would be to tell people they should know their place and to continue restricting opportunity to a narrow group.  This is about opening up opportunity to the broad majority in Britain, to ensure that those who have the ability also get the chance to do the kinds of professional jobs which are going to grow in number in future years.  The measures we have announced in recent months, and the further steps we announce today will help raise the aspirations of young people and they demonstrate our long-term commitment to a more socially mobile society.“

Today’s response builds on measures already announced in key strategy documents published last autumn, including:

·    Higher Ambitions – measures to ensure wider and fairer access to Higher Education, a high-quality experience for all students and more flexible courses to reflect the reality of modern working lives.

·    Skills for Growth – measures to give people greater choice in their training including the national roll out of Skills Accounts and offer apprentices alternative routes into higher education and the professions.

·    DCSF’s Quality, Choice and Aspiration: A strategy for young people’s information, advice and guidance – measures to modernise careers education to make it accessible for today’s generation of young people and ensure they have equal access to the careers of their choice.

In addition, in September the Prime Minister announced that the Government was joining forces with the Federation of Small Business (FSB) to boost the employability of up to 10,000 graduates, through internships in small and micro businesses.

To increase participation in Higher Education by young people from poorer backgrounds the Government actively encourages universities to take a broad and innovative approach to identify talent. And Sir Martin Harris has been asked to consult vice-chancellors on further action that can be taken to widen access to university before reporting back to Ministers in the spring.

In his independent review of higher education funding and student finance, Lord Browne will look at ensuring that the higher education system caters for full and part time students and ensuring that finance is not a barrier to access.

Notes to editors

  • The Government’s Response to Unleashing Aspiration can be downloaded from www.bis.gov.uk/unleashingaspiration
  • The Panel on Fair Access to the Professions published its report on 21 July 2009. Lead by the Rt Hon. Alan Milburn, its 18 panel members from the fields of law, arts, medicine, academia, civil service, military and science, examined the barriers and pathways to reaching professions for all people - regardless of their background. The report was commissioned by the Prime Minister following the New Opportunities White Paper, which examined the issue of social mobility and its importance for the economy and social justice. The full report is available at http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/strategy/work_areas/accessprofessions.aspx
  • Since 1997 the Government has succeeded in removing many of the barriers to progression and has helped individuals from all backgrounds get on in life. School standards have vastly improved and record numbers of people are currently enrolled in university. Huge improvements have also been made within the professions - today one in three people of working age is professionally employed and more people from black and minority ethnic communities are entering the professions than ever before. And the gender pay gap has also narrowed.
  • Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

    The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is building a dynamic and competitive UK economy by: creating the conditions for business success; promoting innovation, enterprise and science; and giving everyone the skills and opportunities to succeed. To achieve this it will foster world-class universities and promote an open global economy. BIS - Investing in our future.

    WRITTEN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

    RT HON PAT McFADDEN,  MINISTER FOR BUSINESS, INNOVATION AND SKILLS, DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, INNOVATION AND SKILLS

    PUBLICATION OF “UNLEASHING ASPIRATION: THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE FINAL REPORT OF THE PANEL ON FAIR ACCESS TO THE PROFESSIONS”

    18 JANUARY 2010

    I have today laid before Parliament the command paper “Unleashing Aspiration - The Government Response to the Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions”.  This responds to the report of the same name led by the Rt Hon Member for Darlington, published on 21 July 2009.

    Social mobility lies at the heart of this Government’s social policies.  That is why, in our White Paper New Opportunities – Fair Chances for the Future (Cmd. 7533) last year, we set out our commitment to give everyone a fair chance to get ahead and it was following the publication of that paper that my Rt Hon Friend, the member for Darlington was commissioned by the Prime Minister to write his report.

    The fair access to the professions report has already had a profound impact on the policies of this Government since its publication: ‘Quality, Choice and Aspiration’ the information advice and guidance strategy launched by my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Children, School and Families is making it easier for young people and their parents to access high quality advice and guidance about education and careers. Today we will set out a guarantee, building from the ‘New Opportunities’ white paper, for up to 130,000 of the brightest young people from low-income backgrounds to benefit from a structured package of support towards Higher Education from 2012.

    In ‘Higher Ambitions’, the Higher Education Framework we made it clear to universities that social mobility must remain at the heart of their mission. We accepted the Panel's recommendation on asking universities to take into account the context of educational achievement when assessing admissions. Lord Browne is leading an Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance to ensure the system caters for full and part time students and finance is not a barrier to accessing higher education.

    We announced in the Pre-Budget Report £8million of financial support for up to 10,000 undergraduates from low-income backgrounds to take up short internships.  With the help of employers, we have set up the Graduate Talent Pool advertising thousands of internship opportunities and today we announce a new online National Internship service providing both undergraduate and graduate internships in one place.

    Our plans aren't just about young people. We are asking universities to run shorter and more flexible courses for all. The provision of flexible learning was also an important element of ‘Skills for Growth’, our National Skills Strategy, where we committed to a new apprenticeships scholarship programme so that the best apprentices can go on to higher education if they wish. We have also launched Skills Accounts for all which will put power to choose courses and access to course information firmly in the hands of the learner.

    These are just some examples of the work we are undertaking to create a more socially mobile society through fairer access to the professions. The full range of activity is set out in our response. Of the total 88 recommendations, we accept the vast majority today.

    Our relaunched Gateways to the Professions Collaborative Forum will be instrumental in driving this work across all the professions.  It will both advise on and help to implement the fair access agenda in the professions themselves.

    Our commitment to social mobility is long term. That is why we announce today the creation of a Social Mobility Commission to be based in the Cabinet Office. It will give expert advice to Government and report on progress towards a fairer, more mobile society. To further assist this work we will soon be receiving the report of the National Equality Panel, chaired by Professor Sir John Hills. This will outline how economic inequality, social background, gender, race and other factors impact on life chances. Sir John’s report will inform the implementation of the socio-economic duty in the Equality Bill, as well as wider Government action in this area.

    We have raised the glass ceiling of social mobility in this country, now we must break it. The document we publish today outlines the next steps we will take towards this goal. Let me conclude by thanking my Rt Hon Friend, the member for Darlington and the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions for their work. I am confident that the panel's work will help raise the aspiration of millions of people in this country and give them reassurance that all they need to succeed is ability, talent and determination.

    WRITTEN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

    LORD YOUNG OF NORWOOD GREEN,  MINISTER FOR POSTAL AFFAIRS AND EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS, DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, INNOVATION AND SKILLS

    PUBLICATION OF “UNLEASHING ASPIRATION: THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE FINAL REPORT OF THE PANEL ON FAIR ACCESS TO THE PROFESSIONS”

    18 JANUARY 2010

    My Rt Hon Friend the Minister for Business Innovation and Skills (Pat McFadden) has today made the following statement.

    I have today laid before Parliament the command paper Unleashing Aspiration - The Government Response to the Final Report of the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions”.  This responds to the report of the same name led by the Rt Hon Member for Darlington, published on 21 July 2009.

    Social mobility lies at the heart of this Government’s social policies.  That is why, in our White Paper “New Opportunities – Fair Chances for the Future (Cmd. 7533) last year, we set out our commitment to give everyone a fair chance to get ahead and it was following the publication of that paper that my Rt Hon Friend, the member for Darlington was commissioned by the Prime Minister to write his report.

    The fair access to the professions report has already had a profound impact on the policies of this Government since its publication: ‘Quality, Choice and Aspiration’ the information advice and guidance strategy launched by my Rt Hon Friend the Secretary of State for Children, School and Families is making it easier for young people and their parents to access high quality advice and guidance about education and careers. Today we will set out a guarantee, building from the ‘New Opportunities’ white paper, for up to 130,000 of the brightest young people from low-income backgrounds to benefit from a structured package of support towards Higher Education from 2012.

    In ‘Higher Ambitions’, the Higher Education Framework we made it clear to universities that social mobility must remain at the heart of their mission. We accepted the Panel's recommendation on asking universities to take into account the context of educational achievement when assessing admissions. Lord Browne is leading an Independent Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance to ensure the system caters for full and part time students and finance is not a barrier to accessing higher education.

    We announced in the Pre-Budget Report £8million of financial support for up to 10,000 undergraduates from low-income backgrounds to take up short internships.  With the help of employers, we have set up the Graduate Talent Pool advertising thousands of internship opportunities and today we announce a new online National Internship service providing both undergraduate and graduate internships in one place.

    Our plans aren't just about young people. We are asking universities to run shorter and more flexible courses for all. The provision of flexible learning was also an important element of ‘Skills for Growth’, our National Skills Strategy, where we committed to a new apprenticeships scholarship programme so that the best apprentices can go on to higher education if they wish. We have also launched Skills Accounts for all which will put power to choose courses and access to course information firmly in the hands of the learner.

    These are just some examples of the work we are undertaking to create a more socially mobile society through fairer access to the professions. The full range of activity is set out in our response. Of the total 88 recommendations, we accept the vast majority today.

    Our relaunched Gateways to the Professions Collaborative Forum will be instrumental in driving this work across all the professions.  It will both advise on and help to implement the fair access agenda in the professions themselves.

    Our commitment to social mobility is long term. That is why we announce today the creation of a Social Mobility Commission to be based in the Cabinet Office. It will give expert advice to Government and report on progress towards a fairer, more mobile society. To further assist this work we will soon be receiving the report of the National Equality Panel, chaired by Professor Sir John Hills. This will outline how economic inequality, social background, gender, race and other factors impact on life chances. Sir John’s report will inform the implementation of the socio-economic duty in the Equality Bill, as well as wider Government action in this area.

    We have raised the glass ceiling of social mobility in this country, now we must break it. The document we publish today outlines the next steps we will take towards this goal. Let me conclude by thanking my Rt Hon Friend, the member for Darlington and the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions for their work. I am confident that the panel's work will help raise the aspiration of millions of people in this country and give them reassurance that all they need to succeed is ability, talent and determination.

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