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MHA Moore and Smalley joins social mobility campaign Rise

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 04 Oct 2023

The UK-wide campaign helps teenagers from low socioeconomic backgrounds gain vital business skills. For MHA Moore and Smalley, it offers a chance to “put something back” into its community.

MHA Moore and Smalley has become the latest employer to join the Rise initiative, ensuring wider access to critical workplace skills for teenagers from low-income backgrounds. 

Established in 2021 with the aim of bringing together UK employers of all sizes to boost flagging social mobility, Rise is set to expand further this year, ensuring more employers across the UK offer their experience, knowledge and insights.

Supporting social mobility

The UK performs relatively poorly on social mobility and inequality metrics among the world’s leading industrialised countries, suffering from significant regional income differences and employment opportunities. The pandemic increased social inequality further.

The Rise programme is a direct response to try and help fix falling social mobility in the UK. ICAEW champions Rise together with founding partners EY, KPMG, BDO, PwC and Grant Thornton. Now more and more small and mid-sized regional firms are joining the initiative.

Danny Houghton, partner responsible for societal impact, MHA Moore and Smalley, says: “We’ve always had a culture of giving something back. That was very much one of our original values and has been one for decades. It’s part of our DNA and we’ve always been very much aware of and ingrained within the local communities where we have offices. Today it’s a written, confirmed and committed value.”

To date, Rise has delivered workshops to more than 8,500 young people, in collaboration with the educational charity The Talent Foundry, supported by volunteers from the UK’s top accountancy firms. The aim is to increase that number to 50,000 by August 2024.

Last year, 16 new partner organisations, including accountancy firms Duncan & Toplis, Moore Kingston Smith and RSM UK, joined Rise to offer support sessions and develop relationships with schools in their local communities. 

The programme sees Chartered Accountants volunteering their time to deliver workshops to schools in deprived areas, supporting pupils aged 14 to 16 with business skills.

More employers on board

MHA Moore and Smalley has nearly 400 partners and staff, serving clients in the North-West. With the introduction of a new management team in 2013, it re-established its mission, vision and values, which included “putting something back”. More recently, at its partner conference in 2021 the partnership brought together all its charity and voluntary work under the banner of its environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy. 

“Before, I suppose you could say we had a scattergun approach to investing in societal impact. Nowadays it’s firmly aligned with our purpose project,” Houghton says.

As part of the firm’s initiative in launching its ESG strategy, which it did on World Earth Day, the firm also published its first impact statement. “We quickly recognised that we have quite a unique skill set in that we are accountants, business advisers, tax advisers, and so on. We run our own business, so we’re uniquely placed to fill that void, where financial education and developing the next generation was missing from the curriculum,” he says.

So far, the firm has supported a series of Rise workshops at local schools including Mount St Joseph School in Bolton, The Academy of St Nicholas in Liverpool and St Joseph’s Catholic High School in Workington, and there are more in the pipeline for this academic year.

“We felt we had an obligation based on our particular skill set to put something back into local communities with regards to workplace skills. We became aware of the Rise initiative, which is closely aligned to the business skills that we can offer, and signed up to it,” Houghton says.

He explains that they don’t just go into schools and talk about being an accountant or accounting in general. With specialists in HR, marketing, IT, tax advisers, corporate finance, financial planning and a large business admin team, Houghton’s firm can talk about more general experiences and opportunities in business for the next generation. “There’s a whole range of career options in a modern day accountancy practice,” he says.

Moore and Smalley has also carried out some internal fundraising exercises to invest in the firm’s charitable foundation – 1892 Foundation, the founding date of the original firm.

“We’re looking to utilise those funds across each of our areas with charities that are aligned with our purpose, developing the next generation, making them more aware of the world – particularly with regards to financial literacy – and being prepared for the workforce. It’s coming full circle back to Rise and why that’s so important to us. It fits snugly with our purpose,” Houghton says.

There are also clear benefits to employers involved in Rise. Houghton says within his firm involvement in charitable and volunteering efforts engenders “a sense of collective pride, a collective sense of actually doing the right thing and we all have a responsibility to do so”.

Moreover, he says most of the trainees the firm has taken on this year want to know about the firm’s strategy towards ESG, so ultimately it’s a win-win situation.

“The lion’s share of interviewees asked us about ESG. That next generation is treating it seriously. And it’s here to stay – and rightly so. We have, as humans, a collective responsibility to protect what we have,” he says.

As more and more employers join Rise it will engender a virtuous circle of sharing knowledge among disadvantaged teenagers looking to broaden their horizons and employee volunteering – two aspects of modern life that will undoubtedly help improve the UK’s lacklustre social mobility.

Find out more about Rise

More on Rise

Get involved

Your organisation can support social mobility and help young people develop the skills that business needs by joining Rise.

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