On 23 September 2020 we co-hosted a virtual “think tank” meeting with the IP Federation, looking at ways to improve access to careers in the IP sector, particularly for people from less privileged backgrounds. The meeting was attended by high-level representatives of organisations across the sector, including the IPO and IPReg. We were also joined by several social mobility and outreach charities, whose input was invaluable in shaping and focusing the outcomes.
Our aim was to identify specific, practical actions that the IP professions could take to create positive change. Importantly, we also wanted to generate ideas for marking Careers in Ideas Week (16-22 November 2020), to raise awareness of IP-related careers and attract a more diverse pool of recruits.
We were thrilled by the enthusiasm and candour with which the attendees shared their thoughts. You can now read the meeting outcomes, in the form of “Steps we can take to improve social mobility and access to the IP professions”, here. Specific ideas for Careers in Ideas Week are summarised here.
Suzanne Oliver, Vice President and Immediate Past President of the IP Federation, who chaired the think tank, said:
I am delighted at how constructive a meeting it was: the quality and quantity of discussions was superb, as was the number of practical suggestions generated. The IP Federation would like to call on everyone in the IP sector to take a look at the outcomes and identify those that they could get involved with, especially focussing on what could be achieved leading up to and during Careers in Ideas Week.
The IP Federation will also pledge to continue to work with IP Inclusive, as well as the associated charities, on sector-wide initiatives to improve social mobility and access to the IP professions, using these outcomes as a starting point.
Certain key ideas emerged from the think tank discussions. In particular, the IP sector needs to:
- Improve the image that we project to people upstream.
- Reach new people and places, widening the range of educational and training establishments we engage with, including to target students before they make career-limiting choices.
- Recruit more fairly, using objective and contextualised decision-making to overcome biases that could arise not only on selection but also in advertising and outreach.
- Address financial barriers to entry and progression, finding ways to support less wealthy recruits through training, re-training and career changes.
- Explore bold systemic changes to entry requirements, for example new apprenticeship schemes and changes to qualification and assessment regimes.
- Gather data to help us target our outreach work towards improving social mobility and to monitor our progress.
- Work together as a sector, and where possible with government agencies, to maximise the effectiveness of these measures.
- Involve the outreach charities, to help us reach the right people in the right way.
Clearly there needs to be senior level buy-in to ensure these projects progress and that adequate resources are committed to them.
Many will require longer-term commitments and may take a while to yield significant results, especially those relating to outreach and promoting our sector’s image. Thus, we also agreed to reconvene annually to review progress, reflect, and refresh our efforts.
We believe this “think tank” has paved the way for the IP sector to progress significant and positive changes. We must provide equal opportunities for everyone who has the necessary talent, regardless of their economic, social, cultural or educational background. With the Covid-19 crisis increasing the UK’s social mobility gap, we would like the IP professions to lead the way in widening access and equalising opportunity. We look forward to working with all our supporters to achieve that.