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Can we increase social mobility by improving young people’s access to information about the labour market value of HE and FE qualifications?

3 young people sit pointing at a laptop

Join the SMC on Tuesday 28th February for an online event discussing the implications of our Interim Report.

Event date: 28/02/2023
Event time: 9:00-11:00am
Location: Online

Our report showed how different HE and FE qualifications can vary significantly in the labour market returns they offer, that those from lower socio-economic backgrounds may typically be more under-represented at the universities that boost earnings the most, and that young people often don’t have access to data they need to make informed decisions.

Our event will discuss the following questions:

  1. How can we get information about the labour market value of different HE and FE qualifications to young people to allow them to make more informed application and enrolment decisions?
  2. How can we improve access to university courses that offer higher value-add to ensure those from lower SEBs are properly represented? Do we need better data or benchmarks?
  3. Are there dangers associated with policymakers relying on labour market value of qualifications data, or on young people using it inappropriately?
  4. How can we improve the data available, particularly on FE courses?

The event convenes senior stakeholders across the sector including a distinguished panel, with an opportunity to input and pose questions. The SMC will use insights from this event to inform discussions with Ministers about future actions in this area.

Timings for this event are as follows:
08:50 – Zoom link opens
09:00 – Welcome address from The Rt Hon Stuart Andrew MP, Minister for Equalities
09:15 – Introduction from Alun Francis OBE, Interim Chair of the SMC
09:35 – Panel Discussion, chaired by John Craven, Director of the SMC. Panel including:
Oli De Botton, Chief Executive of the Careers & Enterprise Company
Rachel Hewitt, Chief Executive of MillionPlus
John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation, Office for Students
10:10 – Comments and Q&A (until 11:00)


About our speakers


The Rt Hon Stuart Andrew MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Equalities)

Stuart Andrew was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Business and Trade, and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on 7 February 2023.

Stuart James Andrew was born in 1971 where he spent the first few years of his life in the famous tongue-twisting village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales. Stuart grew up on a council estate, during which time his father was a welder and experienced periods of long-term unemployment and his mother worked in a newsagent’s.

Stuart left school after completing his A-Levels and started work for the then-Department of Social Security. However, having always had a keen interest in fundraising and voluntary work, he took the opportunity to join the British Heart Foundation in 1994. This helped to gain valuable experience in the voluntary sector which then lead to roles at Hope House Children’s Hospice and East Lancashire Hospice. He was later appointed Fundraising Manager at Martin House Children’s Hospice where he was responsible for leading a team charged with raising £4 million a year.


Alun Francis, Interim Chair, Social Mobility Commission

Alun Francis is the Deputy Chair of the Social Mobility Commission and Principal and Chief Executive of Oldham College since 2010.

During this time the college has been redeveloped with an investment of over £45m, with new facilities to support technical education from entry to degree level.  The college has developed a reputation for strong teaching and learning, and has won a number of prestigious awards for its Teaching for Distinction CPD programme and its provision for special needs learners. It was nominated Further Education (FE) College of the Year at the 2019 TES Awards and in 2020 for innovation around remote learning.

Prior to joining the college Alun had a varied career in local government, regeneration, youth work and education, including primary, secondary and higher education.

Alun has a strong interest in the economics of what is now referred to as “levelling up” and sees FE colleges in general and Oldham College in particular as having a critical role to play in addressing this challenge.

He received an Order of the Order of the British Empire for service to education in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List.


John Craven, Director, Social Mobility Commission

John was appointed Head of the Social Mobility Commission in June 2022.  The Social Mobility Commission’s mission is to create a society where the circumstances of birth do not determine outcomes in life.

Before joining the SMC, John was Chief Executive of upReach for six and a half years, in which time the social mobility charity won a prestigious 2022 Queen’s Award for Enterprise, “Charity of the Year” in the 2019 Charity Times Awards and the “Embracing Digital” Award in the 2020 Charity Governance Awards.

Previously, John worked for 11 years in investment banking, and as a teacher and lead practitioner, taught mathematics and economics at several state and independent schools.


Oli de Botton, CEO, The Careers & Enterprise Company

Oli is the CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company – the national body for careers education. He joined the organisation from his position as Headteacher and co-founder of School 21 in Stratford, East London. School 21 is a nationally recognised school that has pioneered new ways of working with employers – including introducing extended work projects for all Year 10s and 12s. The school puts skills like oracy at the heart of its curriculum and seeks a broad and balanced education of the ‘head’ (academics), the ‘heart’ (well-being) and the ‘hand’ (enterprise). Oli co-founded the national charity Voice 21 that seeks to promote speaking in schools.

Oli was one of the first cohort of Teach First teachers in 2003. He has been Head of Sixth form and Assistant Headteacher in previous roles and has worked in education policy and strategy as a government education advisor.


Rachel Hewitt, Chief Executive, MillionPlus

Rachel Hewitt is the Chief Executive of MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities.

Rachel formerly worked at the Higher Education Policy Institute, as Director of Policy and Advocacy, where she wrote about a wide variety of HE policy issues, including the future demand for higher education and the graduate gender pay gap.

Earlier in her career, Rachel held a number of roles at the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), focused on policy and governance. During this time she led on the review of data on graduate destinations and designed and implemented the Graduate Outcomes survey. Rachel serves as an independent governor on the board of Leeds Beckett University.


John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation, Office for Students

John Blake is the Director for Fair Access and Participation. His role is to ensure universities and colleges are doing all they can to support learners from all backgrounds, especially the most disadvantaged, to access and succeed in higher education.

John took up his position at the Office for Students in January 2022. Prior to joining OfS, he was a senior leader and researcher in the schools sector, leading on public affairs and curriculum research and design for Ark, policy and strategy for Now Teach and History initial teacher education for the Harris Federation. He has also worked as Head of Education and Social Reform for the think tank, Policy Exchange, was a founder governor of Oak National Academy, and served as an advisor to the government on reforms to initial teacher training and continuing professional development.


Chiara Cavaglia, Research Economist, The London School of Economics

Dr Chiara Cavaglia is a research economist at the Centre for Economic Performance and at the Centre for Vocational Education Research at The London School of Economics, where she works on projects on education and skills. She is particularly interested in education and in its role for equality of opportunities. She obtained her PhD in economics at the University of Essex with a thesis on intergenerational and occupational mobility.