As businesses continue to strive for diversity in the workplace, Milkround took a look at how socio-economic factors alter the decision-making process undertaken by students and graduates when considering their careers.

Measuring socio-economic factors

In 2017, Milkround launched our annual Candidate Compass survey, delving into the career mindsets of over 5,300 students and graduates. In order to measure how socio-economic factors may impact career-based thinking, we asked our respondents whether they had received free school meals; 18% had.

Our resulting report revealed differences in career perceptions of students who were eligible for free school meals during their education and those who were not.

Why does socio-economic diversity matter?

As an employer, diversity must always be highly prioritised. A diverse workforce is one that is representative, inclusive and from a business perspective, ultimately more productive. Therefore, it’s essential your recruitment process appeals to a wide spectrum of candidates. Crafting a recruitment strategy that is inclusive of students and graduates from lower socio-economic backgrounds relies on the awareness that socio-economic status affects career decisions.


Free school meal respondents (FSM) placed weight on different influences when it came to deciding on their future career paths, in comparison to non-FSM students.

41% of our FSM respondents claimed their family significantly influenced their career decisions. The role family played was a close second to a candidate’s personal interests, at 43%.

In comparison, a larger percentage (63%) of non-FSM students listed their own interests as their biggest influence. 40% also listed their degree topic and 39% claimed reading job descriptions online impacted their career choices. The discrepancy between family and a candidate’s own interests was much greater for non-FSM students, at 28%.

top career choice influences.JPGFrom this, we can infer that FSM respondents rely more heavily on their family for information when it comes to jobs. They also place greater weight on their careers service (40%), showing they actively seek a broad range of opinions when making their own career plans.

Career confidence

It also seems socio-economic background has implications for career confidence. Only 19% of our FSM respondents are optimistic about their future career prospects, versus 56% of non-FSM respondents. 67% of FSM respondents also feel pessimistic about their future salary.

Be part of the solution

The best ways to reach candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who may have been the first in their family to attend university and consider the career options this route can offer, is to make real connections with them.

By hosting or attending events inclusive of individuals from traditionally low-income areas of the country, or specific schools and universities, you can educate and engage students who may not have considered certain career paths previously.

Read the full report

To find out more about advertising apprenticeships or graduate roles with Milkround, or to discuss a tailored, inclusive recruitment campaign, give us a call on 0333 0145 111, or email