Greater social mobility key to success

Published:  20 August, 2015

The recent report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission contains some worrying findings. Peter Finegold, head of education and skills at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers highlights that if we want a fairer and more successful society, we need to reward achievement and talent, regardless of social class or family wealth. Greater social mobility means we have the best people in the right jobs, and means we are making the most of the talent that is out there.

As Finegold emphasises, engineering should be promoted as one of the key sectors that could help promote greater social mobility as, not only is there a great demand for more talent to enter the industry, unlike other high-value professions people can pursue successful careers by completing apprenticeships. Engineering apprenticeships provide hands-on vocational training, and can also be more affordable than completing university degrees.

Regardless of the entry point, technician or graduate, engineering offers exciting and rewarding careers, which contribute to the wealth of the country and offer the opportunity for career progression to the most senior roles, and hence social mobility. Young people, regardless of their background, should have a full knowledge of the career options open to them, including the potential for advancement.

The IMechE believes that by raising the profile of the multiple routes to entry for engineering, more young people will be encouraged to enter the profession, as apprentices, technicians or graduates, and have a fulfilling career. This opportunity for social mobility could be further enhanced by making structural changes to the education system, not relying simply on finding new ways of marketing the current arrangements.

As the Institution highlights in a very apt quote by Sir John Major made in 2013: “Our education system should help children out of the circumstances in which they were born, not lock them into the circumstances in which they were born. We need them to fly as high as their luck, their ability and their sheer hard graft can actually take them. And it isn’t going to happen magically.” It isn’t very often that I agree with Sir John but I have to admit to agreeing with his comments on this issue. Advocating social mobility reflects the importance our society places on the wider principle of valuing each and every individual. A report by the all- party parliamentary Social Mobility group stated that, “mobility matters both for fairness and for efficiency”, and that reaching international benchmarks could be worth the equivalent of £150bn a year on national income – corresponding to 4% of GDP….”

Well if this isn’t a reason for advocating great social mobility I don’t what is!

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