The struggle to make the transition from the world of study to the world of work is glaring and persistent. Recent graduates and students are often unsure what they want to do, get overwhelmed by the options available, research poorly and find the recruitment process stressful.

This situation is aggravated for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. One key issue is access to networks – well-wishers who can widen perspective, help with internships, introduce opportunities and boost confidence. Their absence leads to proportionately fewer job applications, particularly for higher-paying professional jobs, and ultimately less social mobility.

Meanwhile, the corporate world is facing ever greater pressure from all directions (management, employee, analyst, activist, etc.) to recruit more diversely and engage better with stakeholders, through EDI and ESG/CSR initiatives. Despite the progress so far, much more needs to be done in order to fulfil these ambitions.

We have partnered with a team at Imperial College Business School to understand where this supply-demand mismatch is occurring and how to shape practical interventions in response.

Following a detailed review of the literature, including reports from the Sutton Trust, Social Mobility Foundation and the Institute of Fiscal Studies, we have spoken with Graduate Careers Advisory Services from twelve mid-ranked universities to understand the barriers faced by their graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds when landing first jobs.

We then researched the status of EDI/CSR initiatives among corporates, across eight key industries. Through a series of interviews, our survey covered definitions and metrics, recruitment channels, tracking and retention, opportunities, challenges, and ambitions to assess what ‘good’ and ‘better’ look like in each sector. This analysis fed into our overall assessment of how to improve reach and recruitment success for everyone