Wednesday, February 17, 2016

News: Minister talks social mobility and pride for Rotherham

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Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for International Development, used a recent speech for the Centre for Social Justice think tank to call on businesses to do more to pull in talented young people who start as "rough diamonds."

The Rotherham-born Conservative minister, who attended Oakwood Comprehensive School, was speaking at 2nd Chance, a specialist education to employment training course created to support unemployed 18-24 year olds on their journey to a career.

Greening said: "I know from personal experience just how much social mobility matters. It has underpinned my personal and my political life. Today is a long way from the local comprehensive school I went to in Rotherham.

"And climbing the ladder has been exhilarating but at times a real challenge. It involved going to university - a step in the dark. When I asked my parents for advice on where to go, what to study, it was new to them too. As no one in my family had done it before. At the time, I remember that it felt like a risk, because I was putting off when I would start earning money in a job.

"I didn't know what kind of job I was aiming for, so I wasn't 100% sure what I should study. When I look back, my horizons were quite limited. I didn't consider doing law as a degree, because I'd never met a lawyer.

"I chose to study something that had already had a big impact on my family. Economics. Which at the time was all around me in Rotherham and South Yorkshire. I grew up against the backdrop of the steel industry strikes and miners' strike. In fact, my first ever economics lesson was the day my dad was made redundant from British Steel. That year he was unemployed was the toughest year of my childhood. But I knuckled down at school and college and I got on with climbing my own ladder."

Having studied at Southampton University, Justine earned an MBA from the London Business School and used to work in business. She was first elected as the MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields in May 2005. Previous Government roles include Economic Secretary to the Treasury within the Coalition Government and Secretary of State for Transport.

Greening added: "Westminster and Whitehall are only part of the solution on social mobility. This is so much more than just about government. All of us have a role to play. We can and should all ask ourselves, what more can we do?

"Employees - ask your boss what more your company can do. Employers, business need to see that apprenticeships is a start, but what else? Are they really getting beyond the usual recruits? Are you promoting outside of the usual networks?

"My then employer Smithkline put me through an MBA at the London business school. It's not that normal though.

"How can Britain's corporate world do a better job of more consistently pulling in and then pulling through talented young people who start as rough diamonds?

"Because where you relatively start still over-whelmingly predicts where you relatively finish. Even today. So not accepting that lack of relative social mobility and then changing it, that is our generational challenge."

Greening admitted that delivering a more socially mobile Britain is hard, because it's about changing Britain's DNA and involves not just the individual but the community, society, economy and politics. She concluded: "What galvanised me as a young person wasn't being angry about a less than perfect start. I'm actually very proud to have been born and brought up in Rotherham.

"I remember how I felt. It was a mix of challenge, of excitement, of optimism, of aspiration, of being in an amazing country, with an amazing history, having a sense of wider world out there too, which I wanted to be part of.

"It was great parents, encouraging teachers, adamant swimming coaches, who taught me about single-minded persistence to reach your goals.

"And I believe that our young people will get themselves and our country a very long way. But we need to make that ladder of opportunity one that's easier to climb now and in the future, than it was for those of us climbing it in the past."

Images: Department for International Development

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