IT firms Open Doors to stamp out 'it’s not what you know but who you know' culture

IT companies welcome young people on Talent Tour of London with Nick Clegg and James Caan, amid claims of hypocrisy

Several technology businesses opened their doors to young people from all walks of life today in support of the Open Doors campaign, which aims to stamp out the "it’s not what you know, but who you know" culture.

The campaign was launched by the deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and entrepreneur and former Dragon’s Den judge James Caan, who believes young people from all social backgrounds should have a fair chance at job roles regardless of who their parents are.

Taking part in a Talent Tour across London, 120 young people were invited through the website MyKindaCrowd to board double-decker buses at Guildhall and take a tour of some of the city’s companies from a range of sectors – banking, media, finance, law, technology, creative and IT. Included in the tour were O2, Fujitsu and Siemens.

Deputy PM Nick Clegg encouraged business small and large to sign up for the campaign, which already has 150 UK businesses on board, all of which have pledged to offer fair and open access to their job roles for all young people, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

Terrible waste

Clegg said: “We have a big problem in this country. Every year employers are closing their doors to talented young people. This is a terrible waste of talent and potential that could be otherwise boosting our economy and driving growth in our businesses.

No matter where you are from, who your parents are or what school you went to, you should be able to succeed in life and fulfil your potential by creating a fairer process to get a job.

James Caan

“In good times, this would be tragic. In tough economic times, it is unforgivable. I’m on a mission to ask companies, large and small, to open their doors to the incredible talent out there and sign up to our campaign.”

James Caan said: “I’ve worked extremely hard to get where I am today, but I know that other people who have a similar background to me struggle to get the skills and training they need to get jobs or get into business.

“That’s why I’m joining forces with the deputy prime minister - together we are committed to ensuring that no matter where you are from, who your parents are or what school you went to, you should be able to succeed in life and fulfil your potential by creating a fairer process to get a job.”

YouGov research released today found that young people in lower social grades (C2DE) are behind those from higher social grades (ABC1) on the career ladder, with a third (33%) of young people aged 16-25 from ABC1 social grades admitting that they already have a job in the chosen industry they would like to work in. This is compared with just 5% of young people in lower social grades.

Of those that indicated which industry they would like to work in, 29% believe they do not have the right contacts to their preferred job.

Peter Searle, chief executive of Adecco Group UK & Ireland, said: “Businesses need to change their recruitment practices to reflect the social diversity of the UK today. A key issue facing all businesses is the rise of the ‘lost workforce’ – a generation of young people who sit on the periphery of employability.”

Will Akerman, managing director of MyKindaCrowd said: “Every day, MyKindaCrowd works with young people who all too often find that opportunities are closed to them because they either haven't gone to the right school or haven't got the right connections.”


Caan launched the Open Doors campaign amid claims of hypocrisy. Despite recently telling the Daily Telegraph about the importance of letting a child “stand on his own two feet” and insisting that parents should not give their children a helping hand in finding a job until “the child has tried everything else”, it has been revealed that both of his daughters are employed at two of his own companies and companies he has interest in.

On his first day as Clegg’s adviser on social mobility, Caan said in the interview: "You are trying to develop your child too; you don't want them to feel as though they don't have to make the effort.”

Caan’s younger daughter Hanah explains on her LinkedIn profile how she came to be employed by her father almost immediately after she left university and has three job roles in his business empire.

It was also revealed that his older daughter Jemma works for a recruitment company in which Caan invests, however this position came four years after post-university work at other companies in the recruitment industry.

Last month, Westminster School was criticised for selling of placements and internships at companies to parents who were prepared to make the highest bid. When asked about the auctions, Caan was reported as saying that parents were “reinforcing” the problem and that it was a sign of “desperation” from parents to bid for expensive internships at City firms.

Today in a statement on his website, Caan said parents should: "Encourage their children to explore their own opportunities and define themselves in their own right.

"The fact is that parents will always have the innate feeling to help their children into jobs. I'm no different."

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