Mears Group | Housing sector at the forefront on social mobility

Mears Group | Housing sector at the forefront on social mobility

Housing needs to shout about its work on social mobility, says Alan Long, Executive Director at Mears Group.

Mears Group is very proud to have been listed in the top 75 UK employers who have taken the most action to improve social mobility in the workplace. The Social Mobility Employer Index was developed in consultation with, and following feedback from social mobility experts and major employers. Employers entering the Index do so free of charge and voluntarily.

Looking at the list I am somewhat saddened to see our colleagues from across the housing sector not better represented. The list includes major banks, auditors, government departments and law firms amongst others. Knowing our sector I know how social mobility runs throughout all of our companies – in fact the housing sector in my view is perhaps the most energetic believer in social mobility.

Last year, Mears employed over 650 apprentices, plus 45 Management Apprentices. We are working to increase the number of women in the sector through our Tradeswomen into Maintenance project and our adult education programme enables our colleagues to upskill and also members of the local community who are long-term unemployed.

These actions will be familiar to other companies working in the sector; so why does the sector hide its light under a bushel? For me it is perhaps a question of data collection and analysis. Those companies on the list will have teams of analysts tracking all aspects of social mobility. The sector as a whole needs to better understand and measure our progress to be able to show our successes.

Another factor may be cultural. We in housing get on with the job – not least because of a well-developed understanding of social value but also because we work directly in communities – our colleagues are from their local community and it drives us to a better understanding of what opportunities and skills development those communities need.

The index measurements include:

  • Working with young people – well-evaluated programmes that reach beyond the doorstep of the office to all of the country’s talent, and which provide routes into the employer/profession for those that have the interest and aptitude.
  • Routes into work – well-structured non-graduate routes that provide genuine parity of esteem and comparable progression to graduate ones.
  • Attraction – innovative ways of reaching beyond graduates of the usual five to 10 universities many top employers focus their efforts on.
  • Recruitment and selection – evidence that the employer removes hurdles that will disproportionately affect those from lower socio-economic groups and is moving to a system that judges potential rather than past academic performance or polish.
  • Data collection – rigorous analysis of the profile of the workforce and of measures taken to improve its diversity.
  • Progression, culture and experienced hires – effective strategies that help those from lower socio-economic groups get on rather than just get in.
  • Internal/external advocacy – action to get more of their staff involved in efforts to improve social mobility and to get suppliers/peer firms to also take action.

Which of these can our sector honestly say they do not do? Whilst better data and measurement need to improve we should not take it for granted that the housing sector is at the forefront on social mobility, we should all shout loud and proud about what we do.

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