Diversity in apprenticeships is important
For too long, apprenticeships have been dominated by white men.
They were reserved for trade roles like plumbing and engineering, and were considered secondary to academic courses or university degrees. But things are starting to change. The 2017 apprenticeship reforms saw the introduction of employer-led standards, higher apprenticeships and a welcome change of attitude. Then this year, Anne Milton launched the 5 Cities Project to increase the number of BAME (black and minority ethnic) apprenticeships by 20% by 2020.
This is all really good news, but there are more things we can do to increase different types of diversity in apprenticeships.
Another focus is to increase the number of women in apprenticeships – especially in STEM subjects. Women make up just 21% of the UK's STEM workforce, so companies are taking steps to increase female representation from the boardroom to the factory floor.
A diverse workforce breeds diverse ideas applicable to a diverse audience. In fact, companies are 15% more likely to perform better if they're gender diverse.
Apprentices from all backgrounds
Talented people come from all walks of life, so apprenticeships need to be made available to people from all backgrounds across the UK. Thanks to the new Baker Clause, FE providers are now able to advertise vocational training to school pupils for the first time. This should increase the number of apprenticeship starts as young people will now have all the options available to them – no matter where they live. The Baker Clause should attract more talent to apprenticeships, increase social mobility, reduce the skills gap and reduce the number of out-of-work graduates. What's not to like?
In 2016/17, only 4.1% of apprenticeship starts were British Asian. This is a seriously disappointing stat – not just for minority communities, but for the UK economy as whole. For the economy, diversity is key, and full representation of BAME people in the UK workforce could be worth £24 billion a year.
To increase the number of BAME starts, schools need to advertise apprenticeships to all students. Parents need to change the tunes too. Many families from BAME backgrounds see university as a more prestigious option, and may push their children towards getting a degree.
This issue was raised by Chris Achiampong, a degree-level apprentice with IBM and face of the 'Get in Go Far' campaign. 'I'm from a Ghanaian household,' he said. 'My mum came to the UK for a better life and believed in the power of education and academic achievement. When I first told my mum I wasn't going to uni she went crazy. But I took her into the offices and she saw everyone in their suits and she said 'ok, I can see my boy here.' Now she's telling all her friends.'
It's pretty clear that diversity is crucial for recruitment, apprenticeships, industry and the economy. So what can be done to increase diversity in apprenticeships? Download our free guide to find out what practical steps you can take to boost diversity in your apprenticeship provision.