Following the release of A-level results, leading business and financial adviser, Grant Thornton UK LLP’s Southampton office, has announced that it will welcome four school leavers in 2016/2017.
The firm has also released analysis demonstrating that the changes it has made to its selection processes for its school leaver and graduate trainee programmes, including the removal of academic barriers to entry, have widened access to those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Importantly, it found that employees who would not have met the previous academic hurdles* are performing just as strongly as those who did meet it.
The analysis has been carried out by The Bridge Group, a charitable policy association researching and promoting social mobility. It included an in-depth piece of analysis involving 20,000 trainee candidates for both school leavers and graduates, conducted three years after Grant Thornton removed academic barriers to entry.
17% of Grant Thornton’s UK intake for school leaver and graduate programmes in 2016 would have been previously unable to apply based on academic criteria, including secondary school performance and degree classification.
Looking at the 2014/2015 intake and data from the annual performance review process, 38% of those who would have been previously screened out due to academic requirements are considered to be strong performers, compared to 34% of those who would have passed the previous screening.
As well as flexible academic entry, Grant Thornton took several other measures aimed at increasing the diversity of its intake. The firm removed the emphasis on relevant work experience and extra-curricular achievements, invested in providing one-to-one coaching calls for all candidates before and after first round interviews, and created online communities for candidates to encourage peer-to-peer networking. The Bridge Group analysis found that candidates’ socioeconomic background had a very small or no effect on success at every stage of the firm’s selection process.
Grant Thornton UK LLP has offered 77 places on its School Leavers Programme. This year, Grant Thornton saw a 47% increase in applications for the programme, with trainees joining the firm across 20 different office locations.
Five of the people joining the firm’s School Leaver Programme have taken part in the Access Accountancy work experience programme, an industry-wide social mobility initiative. The firm’s CEO Sacha Romanovitch is also chair of the scheme’s Patron Group.
Rachel Hill, Social Mobility Senior Manager at Grant Thornton, comments:
“We started our social mobility journey over three years ago with a vision for the firm to be more representative at all levels of the socioeconomic demographic of wider society. More young people are considering different routes into the world of work, with some preferring to consider school leaver programmes over higher education. Regardless of what age they choose to join the workforce, we believe that our profession should be open to those who have talent and ambition, regardless of socioeconomic background.
Norman Armstrong, partner at Grant Thornton UK LLP’s Southampton office, said:
“We are thrilled to be welcoming four school leavers to our office here in Southampton. The city is bursting with talent and it’s great that our school leaver programme welcomes those who are choosing to not go onto further education and provide them with a platform to realise their career potential. We are proud to be widening access to opportunity, regardless of background and continue our work nurturing the future of our vibrant economy.”