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Barry Matthews of the Social Mobility Business Partnership tells City Matters how his project is backing youngsters from low income backgrounds around the UK.

The Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP) is a registered charity which unites circa 600 volunteers from over 130 organisations in the UK to address issues related to low income and employment prospects.

It does this through the co-ordination of work experience opportunities and follow up online career coaching (from conclusion of the course to retirement) for young people from low-income backgrounds.

SMBP has grown from offering opportunities to 20 students in London in 2014, to supporting over 500 students across the UK in 2019.

Research conducted as part of the Gatsby Review (the output of which drives the work of the DfE and the Careers and Enterprise Company, with whom SMBP has a strong relationship) shows that a young person who has four or more encounters with an employer is 86% less likely to be unemployed or not in education or training, and can earn up to 18% more during their career.

However, only 40% of schools are providing young people this level of opportunity, and unemployment among young people is three times higher than the national average.

Further, as recognised in the recent Sutton Trust report (published 25 June 2019), while 7% of the population are educated in the private sector, they make up 34% of FTSE 350 chairs and 24% of FTSE 350 CEOs (a rise of 5% on the 2014 survey figure).

The SMBP is founded on the principle of breaking down psychological, skills and knowledge barriers which inhibit a young person from a low-income background realising their potential and achieving their career goal and, once in employment, progressing.

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Major firms have opened their doors to students supported by SMBP over the past five years. Photo and lead image by Julia Stephenson

SMBP takes away the huge operational burden of organising work experience from corporates by reducing the ‘ask’ to the delivery of a day of content at their offices and the cost of some sandwiches.

SMBP does the rest, from student recruitment and training for induction and resilience day delivery to covering all the key costs, including student travel and operational planning.

SMBP has tirelessly championed the concept of collaboration and the strong belief that no one organisation owns the issue of social mobility or has the ‘silver bullet’.

SMBP believes its ambition of true equality of opportunity can only be achieved through seamless co-ordination of the efforts and strong collaboration between the agents of change in business, state and Third Sector.

From the strong student sourcing partnerships with fellow charities such as the Sutton Trust and In to University, to the ‘train trainer’ model adopted for the resilience and induction days, SMBP continues to ensure it does not ‘reinvent the wheel’.

Rather, it seeks to amplify the great work of other organisations and remove the ‘heavy lifting’ from providing work experience for companies, thus enabling local businesses of all sizes to collaborate to create a local future talent pipeline for their organisations.

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