All Our Futures

Though it may be self-evident that every generation should have better opportunities than their parents, all the evidence points to the fact that Britain has gone beyond the point where social mobility has stalled, parts of the country are now suffering from what one commentator called ‘chronic social immobility’. It is has become far more difficult for a young person from a socially disadvantaged background to get on that it was 40 years ago. The millennial generation will be poorer on average than their parents, less able to afford a home, less likely to have savings and less likely to have an adequate pension on retirement. We are witnessing a breakdown of an intergenerational contract, which may have profound implications for the way society functions.

Graduate qualifications are no longer automatically leading to graduate careers. Most significantly perhaps, is that our education system is still struggling to address the fundamentals at both ends of the spectrum, whether that be the 25% of people who do not currently have basic functioning numeracy, or the students from the poorest households are 55 times less likely than independent school students to attend our best universities. Committed employers who are aware of these issues are also thinking deeply about the rise and impact of artificial intelligence and the digital economy.

They sense that these new disruptive forces could add to the exclusion of whole sections of society if young people are not better equipped for what lies ahead. Areas such as technical and vocational education will need greater innovation and investment if we are not to witness a further stratification of society. However, exactly what lies ahead will be difficult to predict, we need to therefore consider how we create a culture of life-long learning if people are to continue to flourish in what is likely to be a period of far greater technical and employment upheaval.


If employers are going to make breakthroughs in this complex agenda, they will need to help construct a new model of social mobility. Moving beyond the simple sponsorship of good local initiatives and tweaks to their recruitment practices. They will need to consider not only how they could proactively work with individuals to improve their skills and employability, but also how they could do more to address obstacles to social mobility which exist both within society and within their own workplace. This latter point has become particularly pressing given the rise of jobs with low security, progression or training.

The renewed focus on social mobility comes at an interesting time for the UK. As the prospect of a significant slow down of the flow of people with lower skills and salaries looms (due to some form of Brexit occurring) – it will require business to rethink talent management strategies, to become more focused on “growing their own” talent and less reliant on cheaper labour imports from overseas.

In June 2018, Tomorrow’s Company co-sponsored an event at Bootham School in York, called “All Our Futures”. 100 sixth-formers from all over the UK heard a series of keynote speakers, and discussed whether changes in science, technology, society and culture represent progress. You can read more about that in our prospectus, Is this Progress?, or watch some footage of the event given afterwards here.

Photo credits for this page to Patrick Tomasso, Susan Yin and Aaron Burden.