Accountancy should follow lawyers on social mobility

by Kevin Reed

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30 May 2012

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ACCOUNTANCY SHOULD FOLLOW the lead of the legal profession in driving greater social mobility.

The Fair Access to Professional Careers updated report, by Alan Milburn (pictured), found that the legal profession has strong representation of women as solicitors, and 12% from black or ethnic minority backgrounds.

The report cites the positive effect that Lord Neuberger's working party to review the selection process at the Bar is likely to have on recruiting people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

"It is clear that genuine steps have been taken since 2009 to improve awareness and understanding of the legal profession, as well as working with young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds to improve both cognitive and non-cognitive skills," the report stated.

"We would like other leading profit-making sectors, such as accountancy and banking, to take note of the way in which the sector is working together and to follow suit."

However, the report was not critical of accountancy, and flagged up the routes to entry into the profession that have been opened up.

"Some sectors have developed a high degree of flexibility for routes into their workforce – most notably retail, financial services and insurance," it said.

"Similarly, the engineering and accountancy professions have consciously constructed ladders of opportunity that allow non-graduates to enter and progress in a professional career. They are to be commended."

ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza said that accountancy was "leading the way" in driving social mobility.

"We are once again leading the way by opening up new routes into a professional career, through apprenticeships, pioneering projects in disadvantaged communities, but also by encouraging our member firms to offer a more diverse range of graduate internship opportunities," said Izza.

"If we are to compete in a tough global marketplace with better-qualified people and stronger skills, it's vital that government continues to work with business and the professions so that we can all take advantage of the economic opportunities this will bring. The accountancy profession is ready to play its part."

Andrew Leck, head of ACCA UK, said: "ACCA is firmly committed to ensuring fair access to accountancy and we welcome the coalition government's continued focus on social mobility. We look forwards to working with them, other professions through Professions for Good, and employers to move forwards the social mobility agenda."

Louis Armstrong, chairman of Professions for Good, said that "demystifying professions", and working with schools and the National Careers Service were all part of a wide-ranging plan to improve social mobility.

"The list is long and there is no magic bullet," said Armstrong.

"All professions are now at work on this important agenda. We are determined to play a full part in the government's long-term social mobility strategy."

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