A socially mobile society provides equal opportunities for everyone. However, with lower social mobility than countries such as France, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Canada and Australia, the UK lags behind.

Research in the UK has also identified a patchwork of social mobility ‘hot spots’ and ‘cold spots’ across the country. Where a young person grows up, their family circumstances and other factors such as the quality of local education influence social mobility. For example, recent work by the Social Mobility Commission has identified that in areas with the highest social mobility, even disadvantaged individuals earn twice as much as their counterparts in the areas of lowest mobility.

Career Ready was established in 2002 with a mission to boost social mobility by empowering young people, helping them to develop new skills, improve their confidence and gain valuable workplace experiences. Their Career Ready programme provides a 14-18 month programme of support for young people aged 15-18 from diverse and under-represented backgrounds. Young people experience a programme of mentoring, a paid internship, skills masterclasses, and workplace visits.

This report analyses the economic benefits of the Career Ready programme based on its impact on A-level attainment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The work builds on a survey dataset that was developed previously by the charity, drawn from survey responses from young people who have been supported through Career Ready as well as a comparison group of individuals that have not been supported.

We find that:

  • Career Ready alumni were 13.9 percentage points more likely to achieve A-levels than a matched comparison group with similar background characteristics. That is, for every 100 young people who go through the Career Ready programme, we would expect nearly 14 more to achieve A-levels than a similar group of students who do not participate.
  • The average long-term economic benefits of this improved academic attainment could be as much as £12,800 per alumnus in our central case. This is driven by increased productivity, as measured by increased wages and reduced unemployment.
  • For a typical annual cohort of 1,800 young people participating in the Career Ready programme, this would be the equivalent of around £23.1 million in long-term economic benefits.

This analysis relies on important assumptions about the similarity of the comparison group to Career Ready alumni and the likely long-term impacts of improved academic attainment. However, we have tested our analysis with a range of alternative assumptions and the broad conclusion that the programme is likely to generate substantial economic benefits remains robust (with an estimated range of total benefits of between £9.1m and £37.1m).

In addition, there is a wider set of benefits generated by the Career Ready programme such as increased wellbeing for the participants, potential progress into higher education and immediate improvements in employment outcomes (even for those who didn’t obtain A-levels). We have some evidence of Career Ready’s impact on these outcomes; for example, Career Ready alumni are nearly 7ppt. less likely to be unemployed in the years after participation in the programme compared to the comparison group. However, we lack sufficient evidence to robustly value the benefits from these outcomes at this time.

Overall, this analysis provides evidence that the Career Ready programme has a discernible impact on improving the opportunities available to those young people supported through the programme. Given that the main means by which these benefits develop is through improved lifetime earnings, this is likely to directly contribute towards improving social mobility in the communities in which the charity operates.

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