What is SMBP (Social Mobility Business Partnership)?

A volunteer-led charity, SMBP is a collaboration of 130+ commercial organisations, professional services firms and professional sports teams working across 13 towns/cities. All are committed to supporting Year 12 students from low income backgrounds in their pursuit of a career in business. Since 2014, SMBP has grown from offering opportunities to 20 students in London, to over 500 student places across the UK in 2019.

SMBP starts with an induction where students learn about SRA, CILEx, Law Society of Northern Ireland, Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, The Bar Standards Board, ICAEW, ACCA and ICAS graduate and non-graduate pathways to the professions, the future impact of AI on the delivery of professional services and the facts about university finance.

Students benefit from visiting four different businesses in a week, learning through interactive business games, and spend the fifth day at a professional sports club where they learn about the psychology of resilience. An online coaching platform then supports them through their journey to a career.

A SMBP ‘Student Journey on a Page’ can be accessed by clicking this link.

How do I get involved? (students and schools)

The SMBP student eligibility criteria can be found by clicking this link.

SMBP does not have a direct application route for eligible students wishing to participate. We work with a number of sourcing partners from schools to charities. We avoid competing for participants or reinventing the wheel by working with the following organisations to provide complimentary work experience and coaching to students on existing outreach programmes:

  • The Sutton Trust;
  • Law firms who have agreed to follow the PRIME model; and
  • IntoUniversity.

There are however some towns and cities which are not covered by these programmes; in these situations we look to partner with education focused bodies (e.g. New Schools Network and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority) to identify partner schools or create direct relationships with schools. Hence if you think your school, town or city could benefit from access to a SMBP cluster please go to the contact tab on this website and get in touch.

How do I get involved and what is expected? (Companies and Professional Services firms)

We are always looking to expand the geographic reach of SMBP. All existing partners recognise the importance of identifying talent from up and down the UK irrespective of where they operate given their future employee base will not be solely sourced from the town or city in which their place of business is located.

SMBP is based around a local cluster delivery model with one organisation taking the lead (as Cluster Head – see below for an explanation of their responsibilities) in each city on a voluntary basis to keep costs to a minimum. A cluster consists of four commercial organisations and one sports club.

Each commercial organisation is asked to:

  • provide a day of immersive business game experience showcasing how law and finance interacts with the business. The day can be provided in partnership with a company’s external legal and/or financial professional advisors – indeed this has been a key feature of many of the clusters to date;
  • provide refreshments and lunch for the students; and
  • make a donation towards the student’s travel costs including the cost of return travel to the cluster town/city from their home and transport to the businesses and sports club they will visit during the Work Insight and Skills Week. The donation is calculated in accordance with the following scale and can be shared with an organisation’s external professional advisors:
200 + Employees: £450
101-200 Employees: £250
51 – 100 Employees: £150
0 – 50 Employees: £75

The fifth day is provided by a local professional sports club using materials SMBP has commissioned from leading sports performance coach, Mark Soden (Cleartrack Performance) on the topic of resilience and goal achievement models. These materials have been validated by a child psychologist and are licensed to the club free of charge.

If you are interested in creating your own cluster in your city or town, please go to the contact page and get in touch.

What does a Cluster Head do and how are they supported?

The Cluster Head takes overall responsibility for project managing the cluster. She or he will be supported by the SMBP Head of Operations (Jessica Organ: jess@smbp.org.uk) on a day to day basis.

The Cluster Head will have access to a centrally recruited team of three volunteers, responsible for individual key areas, to ensure smooth delivery of the SMBP:

Student Sourcing Lead – An individual who is the main point of contact for a professional services firm, charity partner or educational establishment who provide students to a cluster. Their responsibilities include:

  1. presenting to students about the scheme;
  2. eligibility and application process checking; and
  3. supporting the Cluster Head with procuring completion of SMBP student participation forms e.g. parental consent and non-disclosure letters.

Resilience Day Coordinator – An individual who assists a professional sports club partner with the delivery of the SMBP resilience day.

Induction Delivery Lead – An individual who is responsible for delivering the SMBP introductory materials at an induction session held on the Friday prior to the SMBP week.

A Format Bible has been created which comprises a step by step guide on how to manage a cluster and all the related material needed to deliver the programme. You can find this in the Partner Resources section of this website.

How did the SMBP come about?

SMBP is an evolution of the multi award winning Legal Social Mobility Partnership (“LSMP”).

LSMP stemmed from a successful joint work experience initiative run by ITV and Slaughter and May in 2013 and Barry Matthews’ (SMBP CEO) realisation that multiple in-house teams were also engaged with their panel firms on work experience that met the PRIME criteria.

Building on this successful pilot, a model for work insight and skills placements involving a week with different in-house legal teams and a professional sports club coupled with ongoing alumni support developed. Barry Matthews brought together Olswang, Arnold & Porter and Bird & Bird and client organisations Yahoo!, Microsoft and Viacom to create the model in 2014. Harlequins RUFC then agreed to come on board to provide a day of resilience training to students, and with that SMBP’s predecessor organisation, LSMP was born.

Summary of SMBP history and programme growth

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
No. of Students participating 20 106 200+ 300+ 400+ 500+
No. of Schools 4 30 50+ 70+ 90+ 100+
No. of participating organisations 14 35 52 70+ 100+ 130+
Locations London London

Given the focus of LSMP was experiencing different businesses with the wrap around of law, it was easy to evolve to incorporate other professional services. A partnership with the accountancy profession was the most obvious fit and such an evolution was backed by the findings of the APPG for Social Mobility report published in early 2017. Therefore, it was decided that LSMP would become the Social Mobility Business Partnership in 2018. Funding was raised from corporates and professional services firms to fund basic costs and a CIO was registered to house the scheme. SMBP has also received the support of the key legal and accountancy regulators: the Solicitors Regulation Authority, CILEx, Law Society of Northern Ireland, Law Society of Scotland, The Faculty of Advocates, The Bar Standards Board, ACCA, the ICAEW and ICAS.

What do the students actually do on the SMBP?

The groups of students from different schools come together to form a cluster and spend a day at four different businesses and a day at a professional sports club. Where the students spend time depends on the cluster they are in. For instance, students who form the Manchester cluster will spend their week as follows: Day 1 at ITV, Day 2 at N Brown Group plc, Day 3 at Manchester United Foundation (SMBP Resilience Day), Day 4 at adidas and Day 5 at Squire Patton Boggs and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The students will also receive workshops on a range of skills delivered by other businesses that support the programme, including: OPP, LexisNexis, The Blair Partnership, Brand You Sport and Buzzacott LLP.

The week of work insight and skills training is designed to be as hands-on and immersive as possible; students are not merely brought in to watch other people working – but are set realistic tasks and challenges and also participate in workshops to develop their employability skills. These include written and oral communication, interviewing, influencing, presenting, resilience, negotiation and networking.

SMBP then provides virtual coaching; SMBP alumni can draw on the experience of legal professionals, accountants and business professionals for advice on the composition of their CVs/Personal Statements, completion of application forms and preparation for university and job interviews.

What do Sports Clubs have to do with a career in the law or accountancy?

The world of professional sport has a unique perspective on the psychology of resilience and goal achievement which adds an invaluable element to the programme.

SMBP has commissioned its own resilience and goal achievement module written by our Volunteer Patron Mark Soden (Elite Performance Coach and ex professional rugby star) which takes the techniques used to help players understand teamwork, leadership and resilience and morphs these into a toolkit to help students to navigate the challenges of pursuing a career in law and accountancy.

Clubs are invited to a ‘train the trainer’ camp led by Mark and supported by Dan Hipkiss (Leicester Tigers and former England player) thus enabling SMBP to grow without the need for a core delivery team but at the same time maintaining a uniform quality experience for the students.

Do all the students on the programme want to go into law or accountancy?

The aim of the programme is to break down social and psychological barriers that might stop students from considering a career in professional services, but this does not mean that only students who want to go into law and accounting are accepted on the programme.

Ultimately, even if a participant decides that a career in law or accountancy is not for them, we consider the programme to have been successful in enabling that student to take informed decisions about their future and improving their understanding of business – this has led SMBP to also create a pool of coaches from across the businesses who participate thus ensuring we can support those whose futures lay outside of the legal and accountancy professions.

How is the impact of the programme being measured?

Students are surveyed before and after their placements to measure the impact of the programme on key competency indicators such as skills development, career aspirations, confidence and overall satisfaction with the programme.

As well as providing opportunities and guidance to students, the SMBP Alumni network is also used to keep in touch with students to inform them of employment opportunities and track their progress into university and the working world.

You’ve grown from 20 students in 2014 to 400+ in 2018. Do you plan to grow it further?

In short, yes – we’re really excited that the programme has evolved to incorporate accountancy and will be extending its reach by creating new clusters in Northern Ireland and Blackpool in 2019 then Cardiff in 2020.

Why are there so many businesses and firms involved?

The firms and businesses we work with are excited by the initiative and wanted to get involved given the low bar to entry in terms of resource commitment/cost and the opportunity to access a rich pool of talent for future recruitment.

What do the participating organisations get out of it?

  • Access to diverse future talent pool.
  • A unique opportunity to collaborate with a diverse range of organisations for a collective purpose.
  • Chance for companies to engage with a social mobility focused work experience initiative which may not have been possible on their own previously due to limited funds or human resources.
  • Increase in senior buy-in to CSR initiatives.
  • Maximised links with local state schools (new introductions or enhanced ties).
  • Skill development, team building and morale boost for host team.

How does the SMBP fit in with PRIME? Is it a separate initiative?

PRIME is a kite mark standard for the provision of work experience by private practice law firms to non-privileged school-aged students. SMBP is a standalone initiative which can amplify a PRIME certified week through additional exposure to multiple businesses and the world of professional sport and ongoing alumni support. We work with private practice law firms whose work experience fill the PRIME criteria.


What is the SMBP's Safeguarding Policy?

SMBP safeguards and promotes the welfare of children by ensuring there are adequate health and safety arrangements in place at participating organisations and best practice guidance with regard to safeguarding is followed. To this end:

  • all participating organisations are required to conduct a Health and Safety workplace risk assessment;
  • all SMBP Trustees, Cluster Heads and Student Sourcing Leads hold enhanced DBS Certificates;
  • SMBP volunteers who are the lead-chaperone for students on SMBP booked transportation will hold enhanced DBS certificates; and
  • SMBP Virtual Coaches are not permitted to advise by phone, email, via real-time technologies nor to meet students in person.

The full SMBP Safeguarding Policy can be found here.



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