Last updated: 08.02.13

'More equality' needed in apprenticeships

Boosting equality and diversity in apprenticeships needs to be seen as critical to a business' success in order to help all sectors of the community.

This is according to Becci Newton, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Employment Studies, who wrote in an article for HR Magazine that underrepresentation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups in apprenticeships is a challenge that goes ignored.

She stated to bring about change, the UK's policymakers, education and training providers, guidance experts and employer organisations must team up to give all young people the chance to reach their full potential and businesses the opportunity to access the best talent that will meet their company's needs.

Ms Newton pointed to a series of projects carried out by the National Apprenticeship Service which looked at the barriers to apprenticeships and trialled solutions.

It was discovered that instead of there being a simple resolution to these hurdles, it is a combination of several approaches that will bring both a young person and an organisation success.

One option is to tackle gender stereotypes in sectors such as science, technology, engineering and manufacturing, which Ms Newton stated are acting as a barrier to taking on apprentices, as well as the fact individuals mistakenly think the jobs are about getting their hands dirty.

"Parents and young people do not understand that 'high tech' and 'new tech' jobs are the polar opposite of this. It is crucial to get this message to young people, parents, teachers and careers advisors to have an impact," Ms Newton was quoted as saying.

The expert explained in order to widen access, it may be important to increase awareness among BAME employers and small and medium-sized enterprises by working through appropriate intermediaries such as community leaders.

It could also be wise to explore whether companies' recruitment processes could be improved to make their workplace more welcome to apprentices, she said.

At present, apprenticeships play a key role in the government's strategies for social mobility and its vision for 2020 is that every employer will value the programmes as a key route to equipping their workforce with the skills it needs.