According to the Telegraph, although they’re by no means the only source to report similar findings, the system put in place meant that ‘wealthier families were more likely to benefit from a boost in grades than those from more deprived families.’
Fortunately, with the U-turn, the perhaps biased algorithm shouldn’t have the unfair impact on anyone’s future that it threatened to (a great /scary thread on Twitter from Lewis Goodall here to show the effect it could’ve had for some).
However, it still reflects an issue that exists in the education system, that then perpetuates into the working world – the disadvantage of coming from a more deprived background.
Research from social mobility organisation UpReach shows that non-selective state schools educate almost 90% of the UK population, yet account for only 30% of those on graduate schemes at top employers.
That’s not something that’s entirely the employers’ fault. Most graduate schemes, especially those at top firms, receive thousands of applications and it’s unrealistic to expect recruiters to wade through them all in equal amounts of depth.
So, they end up screening candidates out by exam results and often the calibre of the university they attended. In 2018, only 1 in 10 students at Oxbridge considered themselves working class.
We begin to see a pattern and the journey into a top-level graduate job that is currently unfairly balanced. If you’re from a working-class background, you’re less likely to go to/afford a private school education. If you don’t go to private school, you’re less likely to get into a top university, and if you don’t go to a top university, you’re less likely to get onto a grad scheme at a top employer.
Of course, this starts much earlier than with the employer and is a much broader issue. Still, it doesn’t mean that these businesses can’t adapt their recruitment processes to give everyone a fair chance by not screening using academic criteria. So, what can employers do?
There are so many screening tools available now, we here at ShowX focus on tech hires, but there are online platforms and tests available for any job role you can imagine. There’s no longer an excuse for organisations to screen candidates out before actually testing their ability with a test that’s similar to the role you’re recruiting for.
Not only does it give candidates from different backgrounds more of a chance to excel, but it will help employers ensure they’re hiring the right person with the most ability, not the best interviewee with the best CV.
In the tech industry, 67% of developers say they are self-taught to some extent. If you’ve screened candidates out because of their university, the chances are you’ve missed out on the best talent without even giving them a chance.
As a former apprentice, I may be slightly biased, but apprenticeships can be hugely beneficial to both parties when done right. There’s no substitute for on-the-job experience and performance, so being able to recruit and mould talent from A-level onward can be a good foil for your standard graduate scheme.
With the growing popularity of graduate apprenticeships, it’s not like you have to sacrifice the qualification side of things either. You can hire an apprentice and 3 or 4 years later they can still have a degree – you’re then left with a graduate who knows the company, has the right qualification for the role with 3+ years’ experience. Not even Oxbridge can give you that.
These are just a couple of things that business could, and should, be looking to do more. The important thing, whatever direction employers decide to go down, is that they take the spotlight off of academics, and start focusing on ability.