This National Apprenticeship Week shines a spotlight on the diversity and value that apprenticeships bring to employers, individuals and communities. And in celebrating the diversity of apprenticeships, we must ensure that this means true inclusion for all employees.
Research from Stonewall shows there is still a real need to make progress on this front. Its findings revealed that 35% of LGBT+ people have hidden their identity at work because they were afraid of discrimination; that figure rises to 42% for black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT+ staff and to 51% for trans employees. The ability to simply be out at work is something that young people today expect from day one on starting a new job, and it is something that we should all be working hard to achieve.
I believe changing perceptions and practice starts with leadership. My own experience of coming out at work to my team, my board and our stakeholders has made me determined to help others. It was a daunting experience but once I had done it, the benefits were clear: better and more trusting relationships with colleagues and clients turned into further professional success. And I believe that leading by example and role modelling is vital to drive change.
Role modelling is one of the most powerful ways to show young LGBT+ people that apprenticeships can offer high quality training and a range of exciting career options. This week, apprentices who have been involved in WorldSkills UK skills competitions will be going back into schools to share their experiences. Giving young people role models from within their own peer group is a proven and powerful way of ensuring all talent is realised. But it is also important to ensure that there are more role models in senior leadership positions to whom young people can look and learn from, demonstrating that you can be out at work and successful.
This is why I believe that this National Apprenticeship Week we should be looking at what more we can do together to make apprenticeships a great career choice for young people who identify as LGBT+ and to help them succeed. That’s why I welcome the ‘LGBT+ inclusive apprenticeship guide’ from unionlearn, providing information and support for employers on creating inclusive work environments.
This National Apprenticeship Week is the perfect opportunity for us all to commit to ensuring apprenticeships are a positive choice for all young people.