Every self-respecting company has a corporate charter. And every corporate charter says “Our people are our greatest resource” or words to that effect.
The phrase is a bit hackneyed, but who says people who compose such documents have to be accomplished stylists? Yet the sentiment is doubtless true. Any company is only as good as its employees.
That’s why it makes sense to hire intelligent, well-behaved, well-educated youngsters blessed with work ethic, sense of responsibility and social skills. Or so one would have thought.
However, in thinking so one would be overlooking a problem growing in significance by the day. For, statistically speaking, most of such youngsters come from solid middle-class families or – hold on a second, let me make sure nobody’s listening – even higher.
Employment practices tend to reflect this statistical probability, which isn’t to be confused with certainty. It’s possible for someone raised on a council estate by a single mother to be a brilliant, conscientious, successful employee. But, alas, that’s not the way to bet.
That’s why 61 per cent of successful applicants at top firms attended one of the country’s 24 most selective universities. And, at a guess, most such alumni come from middle-class families.
That’s not good enough for those who, like me, believe in progress above all. That’s why I’m in complete sympathy with the principles driving the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) and the government’s Social Mobility Commission (SMC).
Working hand in glove, they have come up with the Social Mobility Index, to be applied to all top companies. The goal is to make sure that most employees come from what our illustrious prime minister Tessa calls “just about managing families” (JAM).
To merit a satisfactory index, a company has to consider numerous criteria when interviewing a prospective recruit: his accent, the school and university he went to, his family background and parents’ occupation, the area he grew up in, whether or not he was eligible for free school meals and so forth. The lower the better is the guiding principle.
Education Secretary Justine Greening is almost as ecstatic about this initiative as she is about her girlfriend. Having companies compete for the prolier-than-thou accolade, she says, “is the collective goal we must all have if we are truly to tackle poor social mobility”.
I agree wholeheartedly – what other goal can we possibly have? Surely not making sure that our top companies remain internationally competitive.
Of course some might cite historical evidence showing that Britain used to be blessed with higher social mobility than any other European country. But that was achieved by unfair means, such as providing excellent education for anyone capable of receiving it. As a lifelong egalitarian, I’m aghast.
Equal education should be equally force-fed to all, regardless of ability. Hence I’m glad Mrs May and Miss Greening have abandoned their reactionary plan to bring back grammar schools. We don’t want 25 per cent of the pupils to be well-educated and the rest competent. We want them all to be equally ignorant, ideally unable to function in the modern economy, and that’s another “collective goal” towards which to strive.
Meanwhile, now that the Social Mobility Index is becoming a de rigueur employment criterion, I’ve done my modest best to promote this invaluable initiative.
If young persons of your kin or acquaintance are seeking a job, perhaps this advice will help them pass the interview with flying colours. I’ll highlight some possible questions (Q) and offer advice on wrong and correct answers (WA and CA).
Not to have to repeat mysel1f, every reply should start with “You what, mate?” and, after the question has been repeated, end with “innit”. The T sound in “what” must be replaced with the glottal stop. Warning: to pronounce this sound authentically, the youngster should spend hours practising, ideally with the aid of any Ray Winstone film. So:
Q: Where did you grow up? WA: Chelsea. CA: Under Chelsea Bridge.
Q: What does your father do? WA: He’s a financial consultant. CA: You mean me baby favva? Ain’t got no other favva, mate.
Q: What does your mother do? WA: Charity work. CA: Me muvva, she do it all, mate. Coke, meth, skunk – you name it.
Q: What kind of school did you go to? WA: Public school. CA: School of hard knockers, mate.
Q: And after that? WA: Exeter U. CA: Bugger U.
Q: Did you get free meals at school. WA: No, I’m afraid I didn’t. CA: Kin’ell, only grub I had, mate.
Q: Have you travelled widely? WA: My parents made sure we spent every holiday in a different country of great cultural interest. CA: Been to Shepherd’s Bush once, mate, to visit me bruvver at them Scrubs. He then ate a lightbulb, innit, and bled to death like.
Q: What is your favourite music? WA: Bach cantatas. CA: N**gaz Wiv Attitude.
Q: What is your favourite food? WA: Foie gras on toast. CA: Burger King on a bus.
Q: Do you smoke? WA: Absolutely not. CA: You mean fags?
This is just a small sample of the training programme I offer to all aspiring candidates for jobs at top companies. I can’t guarantee success, but I could definitely help a middle-class youngster reverse the statistical odds against him. Djamean?