Corporations must hire more working class “rough diamonds” alongside employees who have more “polish”, a Cabinet minister has said. Justine Greening said apprenticeships are “just a start” and insisted that companies should not just hire people from the “usual networks”.

Businesses should “feel in their heart” that improving social mobility is the right thing to do and realise disadvantaged youngsters can be “immensely successful” with the right opportunities.

In a speech that strayed outside her brief as International Development Secretary, Ms Greening drew on her own experiences of growing up as a steelworker’s daughter in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

After her father was made redundant from British Steel, Ms Greening said she had the toughest year of her life but “knuckled down” and went on to study economics at university.

Ms Greening became an accountant, with her employer then funding an MBA at London Business School, and she insisted that such help for young people should be normal.

The Conservative MP said it was important to improve education but that business is the “big player” in improving social mobility.

Speaking at the 2nd Chance training and education project in south-east London, Ms Greening said: “For employers and businesses I think they need to see that apprenticeships is just a start.

“But what else can they do? Are they really promoting beyond the usual networks? Are they recruiting outside the sort of usual recruits that they bring into their company?

“My then employer, SmithKline – they put me through an MBA at the London Business School but that’s not that normal actually. Why not?

“How can Britain’s corporate world do a systemically better job of overall consistently pulling in and then pulling through the talent of young people we have who start as rough diamonds, but can be immensely successful if they get the right opportunities if they are spotted and then developed.”

She went on: “Getting young people out of our education system who don’t necessarily always have that polish, if you like, that some of their counterparts have.

“I’ve talked about a levelling up of Britain and that’s a really important phrase to me. Because I wouldn’t have been helped growing up in Rotherham by taking away an opportunity from someone else, that would have completely upset me.

“What I wanted was a levelling up of opportunity for me to have a go too.”

She added: “Fundamentally, you just talked about education, but after a while it becomes business that is really the big player in opportunity.”

Ms Greening urged firms to understand the economic case, insisting that people’s potential is often wasted in the UK.

“I think in the end though, again you go back to our learning in DfID (Department for International Development), you need businesses to feel it in their heart, they need to have a sense that it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

“And I think there is an economic case, but I think ironically the corporate world, they have got to recognise that fundamentally our economy won’t survive if we don’t have great talented young people coming through, but then we want all that investment that we put into education to fundamentally get business bang for their buck, and that’s where they come in.”

You may also like...

Keep Up To Date - Subscribe To Our Email Newsletter Today

Get the latest industry news direct to your inbox on all your devices.

We may use your information to send you details about goods and services which we feel may be of interest to you. We will process your data in accordance with our Privacy Policy as displayed on our parent website