#Seedifferent: Be different
How apprenticeship diversity supports business performance and growth
Words: Susanna Lawson
On Monday 19th November, over 100 people met at the University of Manchester to discuss how apprenticeship diversity supports business performance and growth.
The event was arranged in conjunction with Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the University of Manchester, and was supported by the National Apprenticeship Service.
Although I’ve attended a number of similar events, I wasn’t sure what to expect – but it turned out to be a really informative day. It was great to focus on diversity and share positive stories, but it still feels like we’re a long way from where we should be.
The day started with an address from Steve Grant – the assistant HR director for the University of Manchester and an Apprenticeship Diversity Champion. He explained that the university had 93 apprentices in a number of sectors – ranging from commis chefs to software developers. They’ve made a conscious effort to increase diversity in apprenticeships, and 21% of their learners were from a BAME background. Steve said that training providers were letting the side down; ‘they need to remind themselves that they’re employers too and practice what they preach!’
Next up was Nic Hutchins – the principal skills manager for GM Combined Authority – who spoke about Greater Manchester’s commitment to improving social mobility, and why GM’s apprentices needed to be more representative of the population as a whole.
Lucy Lernelius, an analyst for GMCA, then shared their research findings about Greater Manchester specifically. In the region, 16% of the population is BAME, but only 10% of apprentices come from BAME background. In ethnic minorities, such as Chinese, Indian and Pakistani, representation is even more disproportionate.
The proportion drops even further in younger apprentices – 23% of 16/17-year-olds in GM are BAME, but only 8% of apprentices are. But in 31-49-year-olds, BAME people are proportionately represented.
Research conducted by CIPD showed that 1 in 8 employees in the country are BAME, but only 1 in 16 are in top management positions. This indicates a lack of social mobility in under-represented groups on a national scale.
The amazing Sade Phillips and Chakib Bouraki then took to the stage – both apprentices from BAME backgrounds. Sade is an HLA work and skills officer for Manchester City Council. She spoke first about her family’s expectations of her when she was growing up. She was always expected to go to university, and was never told about apprenticeships.
She dropped out of university after 2 years as she realised it wasn’t the best place for her to develop. At 29, she started an apprenticeship – even though her grandma wasn’t happy about it! Sade explained that one of the people on her interview panel was a black senior manager, and that reassured her of the equality and diversity at the organisation. Sadly, Sade also said that she feels she needs to work twice as hard to prove herself, and that she sometimes plays down her accent or culture in order to fit in. This is known as masking or code-switching.
Chakib is an assistant relationship manager for Natwest. He started by asking how many languages were spoken in the UK. After a number of lower guesses, he revealed that 311 different languages are spoken and that he speaks 3 as well as English. Chakib said that Natwest has identified that they need a diverse workforce that represents their customer base, and because of this, it’s a diverse place to work.
A lot of Chakib’s friends did apprenticeships, but in traditional trades. When he told them he’d be doing an apprenticeship in finance, they were shocked – they didn’t even know that type of apprenticeship existed and would have done one if they’d known.
After lunch there was a panel discussion with Abid Sardar, detective sergeant for GM Police (GMP), Rose Marley, CEO at Sharp Futures and Katie Nightengale, group early careers manager at Kier Group.
Abid spoke passionately about the lack of BAME representation in the police. The police needs to be representative of the community it protects – but despite this, many people believe the police are inherently racist. Abid adamantly denied that the force as a whole is racist – but with 12,000 employees, you’ll get some that are racist, some that are sexist, some that are homophobic – you have to be realistic. The police wants to increase diversity to combat this, but there’s still a lot to be done. In 2016, only there were only 61 females from BAME background in Greater Manchester Police, and they’d need 650 to be representative.
Colin Barnes from GM Fire and Rescue was in the audience and he spoke to Abid about how they’re working to increase diversity. They talked about unconscious/conscious bias during recruitment, and that application forms are stripped of personal data so people can’t be discriminated against for a foreign-sounding name or age.
They also discussed the importance of having a diverse panel. Colin explained that they have 2 panels who compare the candidate’s scores. If they have significantly different scores, they have to justify their decisions.
The day finished with the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, sharing his view that diversity drives success. He said that skills can no longer be treated as an after-thought – it's now a top business priority. Young people in Manchester don’t know about the full range of jobs available to them, so one of Andy’s top priorities is to create a university-style application platform that advertises all apprenticeships across the region. This will help boost skills and increase diversity in local businesses.
It was really was a fantastic day – full of great ideas and best practice. In the final poll, attendees were asked if they’ll change how they recruit apprentices after today’s event – 91% of delegates said yes. It was great to see that the event had such an impact on so many people.
I feel proud to live and work in Greater Manchester where we have a such a progressive attitude towards diversity. People don’t just sit around talking about how things could be, they stand up and make change happen.