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‘Britain's got talent’ – Milburn says ‘let’s unlock it’

15 May 2009

The Access to Professions Panel, led by Rt Hon Alan Milburn MP has today challenged professions to open their doors so a top career is open to people regardless of their social background. 

The Panel published new figures showing how Britain is divided when it comes to getting a professional career.  In the North East England only one-third of the workforce are in professional or managerial jobs while in London it is over one-half.  Experts estimate that by 2020 professional employment will be the fastest growing sector of the British economy with up to 7 million more professional jobs.  But today’s figures show professional opportunities vary widely across the country. That divide could widen unless action is taken to address it. 

This comes as the Panel’s second report is published, highlighting best practice initiatives aimed at encouraging more young people to pursue a professional career. The Fair Access: Good Practice report summarises the views and suggestions of over 120 organisations and professional bodies from across more than 40 sectors on how Government and the professions could provide real opportunities to help people to get better jobs and better their prospects. Ideas have been submitted to the Panel on how employers can tap in and develop this generation’s talent.

Commenting on the evidence and suggestions received by the Panel, the Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn MP said:

“Our earlier research showed professions have become more socially exclusive. Britain can’t succeed as a closed shop society.  I have been listening first-hand to both young people and experts about how we can help more people pursue a professional career.  Britain’s got talent – it’s time to unlock it.” 

“These new figures show that more needs to be done to make sure that young people in every part of the country who have the aptitude and ability to do so get the chance to pursue a professional career.  Without action the risk is that Britain becomes more socially divided.”

“Thankfully nearly every profession wants to do more to open its doors to the best people. The evidence my Panel has received has unearthed countless ways that professions are working to spot talented people and develop them, regardless of the background they come from .  As professional employment grows in the years to come they will need to do more still to make sure that people with aspiration and ability get a fair crack of the whip.  Our report lays down a challenge to all the professions, as well as employers and the Government to now go further and faster in breaking down the practical barriers that stand in the way of talented young people across the country being able to realise their aspirations.”

The case studies highlighted in the Good Practice report demonstrate how to provide young people with the knowledge, skills and practical experience they need for a high achieving professional career.  They also show how professions and employers are making great steps towards fairer recruitment policies and greater flexible entry and progression routes into top jobs. Examples of proven initiatives from the report include:

The Panel’s stakeholder consultation also highlighted gaps where more can be done to improve the pathways of entry into a high-status career. The Fair Access Panel will continue to examine these barriers and form their final recommendations upon these issues:

  1. Knowledge, information and aspiration: A lack of understanding and information on professional roles and the need for mentoring, outreach and professional role models.
  2. Education and talent development pathways: competition for university places has led to more importance being placed on softer skills – a requirement that often favours young people from higher socio-economic backgrounds. 
  3. Practical experience and managing risks: Practical experience is increasingly important to securing a professional job but costs associated with longer-term internships can be prohibitive.
  4. Fair Selection processes and policies:  Some professions still lack structured recruitment processes
  5. Flexible routes for entry and progression: The graduate route is still the most common route into the professions and recruitment techniques can be narrow in outlook and restrictive in format, edging out young people from less well-off backgrounds.  


Notes to Editors

  1. The Panel was announced in January as part of the Government's New Opportunities White Paper, outlining the Government’s strategy to improve social mobility.
  2. The Fair Access Panel was commissioned by the Prime Minister to review the processes and structures that govern recruitment into the professions, and make recommendations to both the Government and the Professions on action that will improve access for all. The Panel will make its final recommendations in the early summer.
  3. The Panel consists of eighteen representatives from the Professions, (including the media, law, business and finance, architecture, politics, and medicine) with the Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn MP as Chair. Full list of representatives and Professions and further information.
  4. The data on professional and managerial opportunities by region shows the number of people in professional and managerial occupations as proportion of the total employed in the local labour market for regions of England and Wales. It is sourced from the Office for National Statistics Neighbourhood Statistics [External website]