This was a recurring theme which played out throughout the day at last week’s PRIME Conference.
Having recently joined the PRIME Board, it was a privilege to be part of such a hugely inspirational event that not only engaged a wide range of stakeholders across the legal industry on the transformational impact of meaningful work experience, but in equal measure, challenged us as a profession to do more to open up our businesses to a much wider talent pool and in doing so, attract and recruit diverse talent.
I’ve always believed that for businesses to safeguard their long term future, the focus has to be about profit with purpose, recognising the more successful we become, the greater impact we can have as a force for good in society. We therefore have a responsibility to contribute to advancing social mobility and in doing so, create meaningful opportunities for young people that can change lives and also change our profession, increasing accessibility, diversity and ultimately, inclusion.
The Conference challenged our perceptions of talent and what that talent looks like. It prompted us to consider what we currently value in terms of talent, the extent to which we value potential and the need to work that bit harder to extend our reach and source the talent that will ensure we are sustainable – considering different entry routes into the profession beyond conventional graduate recruitment.
Many law firms continue to target high performing schools and Russell Group Universities, which maintains the status quo and negative perception of a profession disproportionately made up of people from narrow social groups, meaning the employment prospects of a child from a middle class background are 20 times greater than someone from a less privileged background.
Throughout the day, we were reminded of the reality that there is indeed, no shortage of talent, just a lack of opportunity. This was reinforced by the fact that if a young person has just 5 employer engagements throughout their education journey, they are 7 times more likely to not end up NEET (not in education, employment or training).
A further barrier discussed, was the legal sector’s use of jargon when advertising roles. Understanding jargon is not a measure of a young person’s potential or indication that they are a better candidate but the prevalence of ‘business speak’ in job adverts promoting entry level roles, is a major barrier that could inadvertently screen out young people without access to working role models and networks.
These are the job seekers that are least likely to have help support preparing for job applications, least likely to know someone who works in the company or sector they are trying to break into, and therefore least likely to be able to overcome these barriers.
When engaging with business, young people, especially those from disadvantaged areas, focus so much of their efforts on trying to fit in, rather than standing out. We can change that and stop social background predicting a young person’s success.
Together, the legal sector can play its part and make it happen and to find out more about the PRIME commitment, visit us at – www.primecommitment.co.uk and make a difference today!
Ty Jones, PRIME Board member
Director of CSR & Engagement, DWF LLP