Metro mayors boost BAME apprenticeships

Five of the UK’s metro mayors have committed to increasing the number of apprentices from ethnic minority backgrounds.  

The Five Cities Project was launched a few weeks ago by the Department for Education to increase diversity in apprenticeships. The policy comes after the former education secretary, Justine Greening, was accused of being ‘all talk’ when it came to black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) apprenticeships. She’d told the education select committee that she had a big focus on ‘encouraging BAME young people into apprenticeships’, but had failed to release a single policy since 2015.  

Last summer, the skills minister Anne Milton finally got the ball rolling by writing to the mayors of Greater Manchester, London, Bristol, Birmingham and Leicester. All 5 leaders got onboard and pledged to increase apprenticeship diversity in their areas.  

Andy Burnham, Manchester’s metro mayor, said, ‘we want to be known for fairness, equality and inclusion – a place where everyone can get on in life and get into work, whatever your circumstances, background or aspirations‘. He’s promised a 16% increase in BAME apprenticeships by 2020. 

This story is very close to our hearts at OneFile. Our cofounder, Susanna Lawson, sits on Andy Burnham’s business advisory panel, and will be a source of support and influence as his pledge progresses. Susanna is also an advisory panel member for BAME Apprenticeship Alliance – the UK’s leading organisation committed to promoting diversity in apprenticeships.   

For too long, apprenticeships have been seen as a secondary route for British Asians, so they work with apprentices, training providers and employers to increase awareness and celebrate achievement in the BAME community. Only 4.1% of apprenticeship starts in 2016/2017 were British Asian. This is a seriously disappointing stat – not just for minority communities, but for the UK economy as a whole. For the economy to thrive, diversity is key. In fact, full representation of BAME individuals in the UK workforce would be worth £24 billion per year to the economy. We got in touch with An Vermeulen from Coca Cola European Partners, who are members of BAME AA, to hear her thoughts. ‘Promoting diversity is something companies should do on a daily basis – it’s a personal belief of mine, and a continual focus for us here at CCEP. A diverse workforce inspires innovation and creativity, ensuring we’re able to develop the best talent. Building this ethos into our apprenticeship schemes will help us live the values of our brand. After all, it’s our people that make us who we are and drive the future success of the business. Apprentices are the leaders of tomorrow! I’m so proud of the journey we’re on with BAME AA to promote the importance of diversity and increase the uptake of apprenticeships from BAME communities – not just here at CCEP, but within organisations across the UK.’

This was a key theme at last month’s Asian Apprenticeship Awards. The awards were launched in March 2016 to celebrate the talent and diversity of under-represented British Asian apprentices, their employers and training providers. The founder and chair of the awards, Safaraz Ali, said ‘it’s all about doing something practical to make a positive difference. Our aspiration is that the Asian Apprenticeship Awards will make an important contribution by raising awareness, celebrating success and inspiring others.’ 

And that’s exactly what the metro mayors are doing with their Five Cities Project. Isa Mutlib, the executive director of BAME AA, agrees; ‘The Five Cities Project will have a great impact in its regions. This localised approach has some very ambitious aims and we believe that with the right support, they can be achieved. We do encourage the metro mayors and combined authorities to work with local employers and training providers to maximise their reach outside of FE colleges.’

To really make a difference, people across the country need to work together to promote diversity in apprenticeships. At OneFile, we believe apprenticeships are an ideal career route for people of all races, religions, creed and colour. That’s why our software promotes apprenticeships in all sectors and gives people the tools to shape their own futures. No matter where they’re from or where they’re going, OneFile is for everyone, everywhere.  

To find out how OneFile can help promote diversity in apprenticeships, download our latest brochure 

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