Apprenticeships offer opportunities to learn while working and earning money.
For young people apprenticeships are an opportunity to enter the world of work and start a career. For existing staff already in the workplace apprenticeships offer upskilling and reskilling as well as progression and new job roles.
It would be good to see apprenticeships also as an opportunity to make workplaces truly diverse.
Lack of data hampers having a proper picture but there are some indications on what apprenticeship diversity and lack of it looks like. For instance, almost half of apprentices are women, but they don’t take up half of apprenticeships in the better paid, male-dominated industries.
Or take a look at Black and minority ethnic (BME) representation. According to DfE 12.5 per cent of 2018-2019 starts were BME apprentices which was slightly up from the previous academic year. However, 2017-2018 data shows that BME apprentice achievement rate was 9 per cent. This suggests that there’s a need for better support for BME apprentices in the workplace.
Roughly 11 per cent of apprentices have a learning disability and/or difficulty. Apprenticeships could be an opportunity to introduce more disabled people into employment but a TUC report recently found that the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people is still around 30 per cent.
And let’s talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT+) apprentices too. Here we have no data at all, but we hear stories on how important it is especially for new entrants to be able to choose an employment where an LGBT+ apprentice can be out at work.
So, we do want more apprenticeship diversity. But how will it happen?
It happens when employers take a closer look at their recruitment practices and how apprentices are supported to ensure a safe and respectful workplace for all.
Unions definitely have a role to play too. There are a whole host of actions to tackle starting with:
- making sure apprenticeship diversity is in the bargaining agenda
- helping develop and review relevant workplace policies
- training reps to mentor apprentices
- ensuring all reps work together to identify on their patch how they can make apprenticeships more diverse
Unionlearn has produced a set of guides to help reps and negotiators to think what steps they need to take. The guides explore apprenticeships with a view on disability, race and women in under-represented industries:
- Accessible apprenticeships
- Supporting Black and minority ethnic apprentices
- Tackling apprenticeship gender inequality
Watch out for the latest addition to the series, LGBT+ inclusive apprenticeships. It will launch in February and help explore what actions you can take to improve inclusivity and diversity in your workplace this year.