Disadvantaged young people need more from apprenticeships

Social Mobility Commission’s new report raises an alert today that disadvantaged young people are left behind by the system.

Apprenticeships and social mobility: fulfilling potential report finds that the apprenticeship starts have declined 36 per cent for people from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to 23 per cent to other groups. The system failure starts early on when young people from deprived background are less likely to be even selected for an apprenticeship.

When they do win a placement, it’s likely to be in entry level and in lower-paid industries such as hospitality, administration or health. The apprenticeships in these areas also tend to be shorter than in better paid occupations such as engineering or ICT. Only 13 per cent of degree-level apprenticeships goes to apprentices from disadvantaged groups.

However, the report highlights the benefits for those who manage to cross the system’s barriers reach better pay. The Commission sees a 16 per cent uplift to wages for women from disadvantaged backgrounds who complete their apprenticeship compared to 10 per cent for other groups.

The report also raises the fact that there is a lack of opportunities in deprived areas which leads to expensive travel. According to the Commission most disadvantaged apprenticeship starters came from three regions: north-west England (25 per cent); the West Midlands (15 per cent) and London (15 per cent).

The TUC raised the issue of travel costs are prohibitive for apprentices – some of whom end up paying more for getting to work than earning. Get a move on! Developing national travel discount entitlement for all apprentices calls for the government to deliver on its promise to support apprentices’ travel cost.

Unionlearn director Kevin Rowan said:

Apprenticeships should be accessible and affordable to all.

We’d like to see government to take action in improving the apprenticeship levy system by allowing employers to use the levy funds on innovative pre-apprenticeships programmes to engage people from disadvantaged groups.

The levy funds can also fund matching services to target sectors in need of wider application pool from young people from deprived areas.

There’s also a threat now that the current Covid-19 pandemic scarring young people’s prospects for the future with lack of employment and training.

This is why the TUC is calling for an education and training guarantee for young people and an option of kick-starting and apprenticeship on a wage-subsidised jobs guarantee programme”