Social Mobility Business Partnership Launches

Companies come together to broaden access for careers in business

A unique and award-winning social mobility programme bringing together companies and professional service organisations to broaden access to the legal profession for talented students from low income backgrounds is to be expanded, it was announced today.

The founder of the multi-award winning Legal Social Mobility Partnership, ITV Director of Legal and Third Party Sales Barry Matthews, today confirmed the expansion of the scheme to cover accountancy as well as law, in more regions, offering even more work insight opportunities for young people.

The Legal Social Mobility Partnership (LSMP) began in 2014, with founding organisations including ITV, Slaughter and May, Microsoft, Arnold Porter Kaye Scholar, and Harlequins RUFC (providing sports psychology led resilience training) collaborating to offer a week long work insight opportunity for 20 London students, to broaden access to the legal profession. This was complemented by on-going coaching support for the participating students.

The programme extended to Greater Manchester in 2015, Leeds and Birmingham in 2016, and in 2017 to Bristol, Brighton and Reading, bringing the total number of LSMP student places to over 300 and the number of participating organisations offering work insight opportunities to 70 (including adidas, Barclays, Fremantle, Viacom, Oath, Manchester United, Manchester City, Plusnet, Virgin Atlantic, American Express, N Brown Group, Yeo Valley and EE).

At a launch event today in the House of Commons hosted by Justin Madders MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility, it was announced that the scheme is expanding further to become The Social Mobility Business Partnership (SMBP), a registered charity, and will widen its focus to promoting social mobility in business with particular focus on the legal and the accountancy professions.

The SMBP brings together professional bodies (including the ACCA, ICAEW, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and CILEx) social mobility experts and existing profession-led movements (including The Sutton Trust and PRIME) as well as commercial businesses, law and accountancy firms, and sports clubs, who come together in different regions to deliver week-long, work insight and skills programme for students.

In 2018, the SMBP plans to expand to further areas - this year launching in Norwich and Glasgow as well as increasing the catchment in Leeds and Manchester to incorporate nearby Department of Education Opportunity Areas.

The programme is the brainchild of ITV’s Barry Matthews, who has acted as volunteer CEO since the inception. Matthews is passionate about giving students practical skills and experiences, that can boost self-confidence and give them CV and interview talking points. He has grown the participating network offering opportunities to 80 businesses (each cluster consisting of four different organisations offering a day each of experience with the fifth day provided by a professional sports club (including Harlequins, Manchester United, Wasps, Leeds Rhinos, Bristol Sport and Norwich City delivering the SMBP Resilience day).

Barry Matthews said:

“Having grown up on a council estate, I know from personal experience that entering into a profession or business seems like a huge mountain to climb when you have no network or understanding of what is required.  I wanted to do something to provide bright students from my background with a fighting chance of success by providing them with confidence and social capital through exposure to our world as it is now and support through their career journey. Resilience has been a big part of my life and it has been strengthened when other people in positions of power have shared their stories with me about bouncing back. This is why we have included a professional sport resilience training day (authored by ex-rugby professional and Olympic and business performance coach Mark Soden) as part of the SMBP package.”

The programme starts with an induction where students learn about the different pathways to the legal and accountancy professions, the future impact of AI on the delivery of professional services and the facts about university finance.

Next, students participate in a week-long programme of work insight and skills experience in which they are given the opportunity to spend a day at four different high profile businesses; in addition, they attend a day run by a professional sports club to learn about the psychology of resilience and goal achievement models.

Finally, students have access to online ‘virtual coaching’ from legal, accountancy and business professionals.  Coaches are on hand to help with creating Personal Statements/CVs, compiling application forms and preparing for interviews.

SMBP is supported by 80 of the UK’s leading commercial organisations Existing partners will be joined by SSE, Post Office, Virgin StartUp, Soreen, STV and others in 2018.

SMBP is funded by Addleshaw Goddard, Ashurst, BT plc*, BLP, Burges Salmon*, Buzzacott LLP, Charles Russell Speechly, Clifford Chance*, CMS*, DLA, Gowling WLG, ITV plc*, Mischon De Reya*, Osborne Clarke*, Overture*, Provident Financial plc*, PwC, Reed Smith*, Simply Business*, Slaughter and May* and Squire Patton Boggs*. * Board member organisations.

Notes to Editors – About The Social Mobility Business Partnership

The Social Mobility Business Partnership objectives are to:

  • Break down psychological ‘fitting in’ barriers students may experience when entering the world of business by providing them with an opportunity to experience different working environments and meet the professionals within them;
  •  Develop students' commercial awareness and skills in the following areas: interviewing, team working, relationship building, presenting, influencing, resilience, goal planning and negotiating;
  •  Arm students with multiple corporate brand names to create stand out Personal Statements/CVs;
  • Provide engaging business game focussed work insight experiences to create anecdotes to enable students to confidently answer competency questions asked during university and job interviews; and
  • Assist students with each step of their career journey through online virtual coaching on Personal Statement/CV creation, completion of application forms and interview preparation.

Student Eligibility

The students who participate must be:

  •   State School educated; and
  •   possess a G score of 6 and above; and


  •   first generation to attend University; or
  •   are or have been eligible for free school meals (“FSM”) in the last 6 years; or
  •   live in a household where their parent/guardian total gross annual income is equal to or less than the national average for the household expenditure in their area; or
  •   live in a postcode with a Quintile 1 POLAR3 rating (Progression to HE measure:; or
  •   live in a postcode which has a Cat. 4 or 5 ACORN rating (Consumer affluence measure:

Student Sourcing

Students are identified in numerous ways for each cluster:

  1. Direct relationships with a local education authority and/or schools;
  2. Collaboration with other social mobility focussed charities.
  3. Professional Services Firm Gateway e.g. students attend a prior work experience placement with a professional services firm; most law firms we work with have signed up to the PRIME commitment.