Social Mobility Day 2024: Understanding and Addressing Social Mobility in the UK

Social mobility refers to the ability of individuals or families to move up or down the social and economic ladder within a society. It is typically measured in terms of income, education, and occupation across generations.

  • The Carey Group
  • Thursday 13th June 2024

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High social mobility means that an individual's socio-economic status is not heavily determined by their background, allowing for greater equality of opportunity.

**Why is Social Mobility Important? **

Social mobility is crucial for a number of reasons:

1. Equality of Opportunity ensures that all individuals have the chance to succeed based on their talents and efforts, rather than their socio-economic background.

2. Economic Growth: Societies with high social mobility can better utilise their communities and general population, leading to more innovation, productivity, and economic growth.

3. Social Cohesion: Reducing disparities and enabling upward mobility can foster a more cohesive and stable society, reducing social tensions and inequalities. Love him or hate him, Trump got in for a reason.

4. Personal Fulfilment: When individuals have the opportunity to improve their socio-economic status, they are more likely to achieve personal satisfaction and fulfilment.

Social Mobility in the UK:

Despite being one of the world's largest economies, the UK faces significant challenges in terms of social mobility. These challenges include:

Educational Inequality and Attainment Gaps

One of the most significant examples of poor social mobility in the UK is the persistent educational attainment gap between students from different socio-economic backgrounds. Children from disadvantaged families often perform worse academically compared to their peers from more affluent backgrounds. For instance, the Sutton Trust has highlighted that pupils eligible for free school meals (a common indicator of low socio-economic status) are less likely to achieve good GCSE results. This gap in educational achievement starts early and tends to widen as students progress through the education system, ultimately limiting their opportunities for higher education and well-paying jobs, and this cycles continues and continues generation after generation.

Regional Disparities in Opportunities

There are stark regional disparities in social mobility across the UK, with some areas offering significantly fewer opportunities for upward mobility than others. For example, a report by the Social Mobility Commission identified "social mobility coldspots" such as parts of the North East, the Midlands, and coastal areas where children from disadvantaged backgrounds face severe challenges in improving their socio-economic status. These regions often have fewer high-quality schools, limited access to higher education institutions, and fewer well-paying job opportunities, perpetuating cycles of poverty and limiting social mobility.

Barriers to Career Progression for Disadvantaged Groups

Individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds face numerous barriers to career progression, which contributes to poor social mobility. Research has shown that these individuals often lack access to professional networks and mentorship opportunities that are crucial for career advancement. Additionally, they may face implicit biases and discrimination in hiring and promotion processes. For example, the "class ceiling" phenomenon highlights how people from working-class backgrounds, even when they enter professional fields, often earn less and progress more slowly than their peers from more privileged backgrounds. This disparity is evident in sectors like law, finance, and media, where social capital and connections play a significant role in career advancement.

Efforts to Improve Social Mobility

Recognising these challenges, various initiatives and policies are being implemented to enhance social mobility in the UK:

1. **Educational Reforms:** Increasing funding for early years education, expanding access to higher education, and providing additional support to schools in disadvantaged areas.

2. **Apprenticeships: Encouraging alternative pathways to employment, such as apprenticeships, which provide practical skills and work experience.

3. **Regional Development Programs:** Investing in infrastructure, business development, and job creation in less affluent regions to reduce regional inequalities.

4. **Inclusive Hiring Practices:** Promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace to ensure equal opportunities for career progression for people from all backgrounds.

Careys initiatives to help improve social mobility

Here at Careys, we have invested heavily in our Early Talent recruitment activities and have partnered with Milton Keynes College and B-Met College in developing regional development programs, as well as setting up a DfE Skills Bootcamp in Construction and the built environment in Wembley.

Our three-year partnership with Milton Keynes College offers a groundworker apprenticeship to local students. Delivery of the apprenticeship is carried out from the Careys Milton Keynes office, which under the terms of the partnership has become a joint Careys and Milton Keynes College campus.

The level 2 groundworker apprenticeship takes 15 months to complete. The skills taught on the course provide a career path that allow students to segway into heavy construction and civil engineering as well as house building, commercial building and general building, whilst providing a professional working environment to develop their employability skills.

Under the partnership Careys have also committed to providing curriculum development assistance to ensure the college’s delivery of the course reflects the needs and requirements of the industry.

Our partnership with B-Met College provides a Groundworks SWAP (Sector based Work Academy Programme) aimed at unemployed people looking to pursue a career in the construction industry.

The Sector-based Work Academy Programme (SWAP) supports businesses to create a skilled workforce by helping to prepare those receiving unemployment benefits to apply for jobs in a different area of work. Placements are designed to help meet immediate and future recruitment needs as well as to recruit a workforce with the right skills to sustain and grow a business. Placements are particularly useful for young people but are open to all jobseekers aged 18 upwards.

The three-week course provides candidates with a range of skills including health and safety in a construction environment, CSCS Card (training and exam), manual handling and the safe use of tools, flexible paving (paving, slabbing and drainage) with a guaranteed job interview for groundworks vacancies with Careys upon course completion.

Delivery of the Groundworks SWAP is carried out from a brand new, purpose-built site at James Watt College, located in Great Barr, Birmingham.

The DfE’s Skills Bootcamps are fully funded, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks, giving adults the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with an employer, or to progress in their current role as part of the Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, helping
everyone gain skills for life.

Delivered from the Careys Construction Campus in Wembley, we offer two three-week courses; one of which is aimed at new entrants to the industry providing practical skills to those that might sit at quite a distance from the current job market. The second course is aimed at those looking to progress through the industry into a more supervisory role:

  • NOCN Level 2 credit in laying modular paving, which provides learners with a range of ground working skills that include drainage, paving, kerb laying and concrete progress to further training in groundworks at Level 2 such as a diploma, or to progress into a job role in the construction industry or apprenticeship.
  • NOCN Supervisor course which equips learners with the knowledge, understanding and skills to work in a supervisory role on a construction site.


Social Mobility Day 2024 serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of striving for a society where everyone has the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background. By understanding the barriers and actively working towards solutions, we can move closer to a fairer, more dynamic, and prosperous society. In the UK, overcoming the challenges of social mobility is essential not only for individual fulfilment but also for the nation's social and economic well-being. As we observe Social Mobility Day, let us renew our commitment to fostering equality of opportunity for all.

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