Bridging the London Recruitment Chasm: Addressing London’s Recruitment Difficulties and Social Mobility

Ben Conway Speaking on a panel (photograph)

Young people are working hard, and London has higher grade attainment than in other regions; however, only 17% of disadvantaged young Londoners secure professional job roles, compared with 30% of the rest of the country. This disparity means that the homegrown aspirations of many young Londoners are left unfulfilled, and employers are struggling to nurture an entire class of creative professionals.

Children can only aspire to what they know exists

Professor Dr Ger Graus OBE.
London: Bridge the Gap brochure (photograph)

Hosted in the illustrious Guildhall building, Tuesday was the London Bridge the Gap conference which aimed to encourage London employers to diversify their recruitment practices to help deliver solutions to London labour shortages. Under chandeliers, the conference addressed the gritty reality of London’s recruitment struggles. Insights from speakers aimed to inspire employers to revolutionise hiring practices and shed light on the disparity in professional opportunities for disadvantaged young London talent, compared to their peers in other regions. As a fresh-faced attendee at my first conference, the discussions that followed revealed not just a gap in employment but a profound chasm between the aspirations and opportunities for the young creative class.

Ben Conway Speaking on a panel (photograph)
Left-to-right: Jamie Stokes, Ben Conway, Emma Cufflin

I was most eager to hear from Ben Conway speaking on the employer panel. Ben is an Ideas Foundation Alumnus, now working as a copywriter at the advertising agency McCann, London. He spoke about how, as a 15-year-old, his perspectives on creative careers changed whilst on a programme with The Ideas Foundation. A full-circle moment, it was heart-warming to hear Ben’s insights as a tutor to new Ideas Foundation students; he went on to underscore the importance of countering inaccurate careers advice on social media due to existing knowledge gaps in young people.

Emma Cufflin, the talent partner for McCann, echoed Ben’s sentiments, championing The Ideas Foundation as an accessible route for young talent to enter professional careers. She emphasised the importance for alternative careers pathways, as well as the importance of immersive in-house workshops for young people. The Ideas Foundation’s partnership with McCann has provided students with both careers education, live briefs, and brand/agency experiences. These experiences broaden the horizons for a new creative class by providing a safe and welcoming space to experience a new way of thinking. These new ways of thinking can also positively impact employers.

London Bridge the Gap’s call for change to professional policies resonated with the audience, aiming to give young people a leg up and over existing employment obstacles. Take it from a young professional at her first conference, dressed down in a bobbly blue jumper and paint-stained jeans, conquering my day-to-day would be much harder without the support of my employer [The Ideas Foundation]. For those striving towards independence and a career, food, travel, and clothing costs are an additional pressure on young people today. Interest free travel cost loans, hybrid working options, and relaxed attire policies became an evident need to create a welcoming work environment that can assist the aspirational fulfilment of young people.

Sat at the original London Street level, the panel of speakers left a lasting impression. Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO CBE set the scene by highlighting the academic achievements of Hackney students, showcasing the potential that exists within diverse communities. Floyd Steadman OBE shared his inspirational story about overcoming social barriers to be able to succeed as both a Saracens FC player and headteacher; while Professor Dr Ger Graus OBE emphasised the need for early intervention to challenge stereotypes that are established as early as age 4.

As a former nursery practitioner I can only draw on my own experiences, but the current standards of training, curriculum and support for staff fall short of meeting the growth and aspirations that Bridge the Gap hope to see. While it is a great stride for recruiters to hear the success stories, the narratives from young speakers like Ben Conway, Mohammad Hassan and students from City of London Academy Shoreditch Park are incredible, valuable proof that achievable homegrown aspirations are well within reach for young Londoners.

Shoreditch Park students (photograph)
Students attending the event

The Ideas Foundation works hard to nurture young people who have grown cynical in a time of high living costs, competitive recruitment, and biased hiring systems. My brain was buzzing. I was incredibly excited to share these discussions with my peers who, despite having earned their creative degrees, find themselves tethered to precarious zero-hour contracts in the hospitality sector, disillusioned with the professional world.

London Bridge the Gap partners page featuring The Ideas Foundation Logo held by audience member (photograph)
A delegate holding the conference brochure.

Finding myself amid these conversations, it struck me that extending invitations to such hard-working individuals could be a transformative step. Giving these young people the platform to articulate their own experiences and challenges would not only bridge the gap between aspirations and recruitment reforms but would also cultivate an authentic community space representative of the workforce we aspire to shape.

Essentially, it’s a callout for more than just a change in policies, rather a plea for the inclusion of diverse perspectives, a call for more bobbly jumpers in the room! Calls for change followed by unbroken patterns of behaviour means we need to do more to disrupt the status quo.

We need to move towards a space where the voices of those navigating the intricacies of modern employment are platformed, shattering the crystalline chandelier-shaped obstacles to usher in authentic representation.

To all other young professionals out there…

What obstacles are you facing as you move towards your professional goals? And for those of you in established careers… what would have made your professional journey more accessible and fulfilling? We'd love to hear from you

Photo credits: Mark Thomas

Please share:

Similar Posts