New social mobility research exposes deep employability skills gap between state and private schooled students

Social mobility charity upReach is today launching innovative new research that demonstrates the employability skills gap between those from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Preliminary findings using extensive data collected from over 1,500 students across the country show significant differences in some of the key employability skills and experiences required to secure prestigious graduate employment.

upReach surveyed students across over twenty universities using getEmployable to assess their employability across ten categories considered essential by top graduate employers, including ‘career knowledge’, ‘application and interview skills’, ‘leadership’, and ‘professionalism’, as well as asking questions pertaining to networking and careers advice available to them at school.

Preliminary analysis shows some interesting results:

– Those from private schools were ranked higher than those from state schools in Leadership, Teamwork, Career Knowledge and Work Experience.

– Those from state schools ranked higher on Grit, Resilience & Determination, and Self Awareness than those from private schools.

Networks – Those from private schools were twice as likely to say that “Friends of my family have helped me secure useful work experience” (24.1% vs 11.5%). Those from state schools eligible for Free School Meals were 5 times less likely than others at state schools to have secured work experience this way (3% vs 15%) – 8 times less likely than those at private school.

– Career Advice – Those from private schools were more than 50% more likely to say their careers advice was helpful than those from state schools (45.7% vs 29.3%). Those eligible for FSM were less than half as likely as those at private schools to get helpful advice.

Announcing the preliminary research findings at an event to celebrate upReach’s five-year anniversary, Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue said “These incredibly interesting preliminary findings underline the need to go further in helping people from less-advantaged backgrounds, but also the importance of the work upReach is doing.”

John Craven, CEO of upReach, commented: “The initial findings clearly demonstrate the existence of an employability skills gap that is holding back high potential students from less-advantaged backgrounds. This gap explains why students from less-advantaged backgrounds are less likely to secure professional graduate employment than others studying the same course at the same university, and shows the importance of supporting those without access to professional networks, high quality careers advice and work experience to realise their potential.”

The full report, to be published by Easter 2018, will analyse multiple indicators of disadvantage including free school meal eligibility, first generation to attend university and the impact of a state school’s academic performance as well as school type. Finally, it will also explore whether home postcode influences employability skills of students, and hence the extent to which a regional employability skills gap exists.


John Craven,   Chief Executive, upReach

Tel No.    020 3096 7893   (Mobile: 0797 1274469)



Notes to editors:

upReach is a charitable organisation supporting less-advantaged undergraduates to secure top jobs. Through partnerships with top employers and universities, upReach deliver a comprehensive programme of professional development to over 600 undergraduates. Learn more at

getEmployable is a website built by upReach for use by students from any background wanting to better understand their strengths and development needs. It is based on upReach’s Graduate Employability Framework (GEF), which was produced in collaboration with leading graduate employers. The GEF sets out ten core strengths that prestigious employers look for in potential hires. getEmployable uses answers to over 50 questions to assess students against each of ten areas – from resilience and teamwork to work experience and leadership, assigning a level from 1 to 5 for each. Respondents receive a detailed Personal Employability Report showing their levels and an overall employability score out of 100.

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