Bias regarding employees’ race, sex, gender, age, disability status or sexual orientation ignores the talents of individuals from underrepresented communities and fails to see the potential of certain candidates. So, today more than ever, UK businesses are focusing on how to eliminate discrimination and develop more equitable workplaces. Apprenticeships are viewed by such businesses as a great tool for developing inclusion and belonging.

Ethnicity and apprenticeships

Women in apprenticeships

Sexual orientation and apprenticeships

Apprenticeships and the differently abled

Ethnicity and apprenticeships

Whilst educational achievement at 16 years of age actually shows a general ethnic minority advantage, the picture is not so cut and dried as to suggest that career opportunities in the UK are now sufficiently racially equitable.

At further education (FE) level, White British children go on to have higher performance than the Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black African children that were generally outperforming them at GCSE level. And, whilst ethnic minority students are broadly more likely to access university, they are less likely to go to high-tariff universities and achieve the highest degree classifications, according to the Centre for Social Justice.

Apprenticeships offer an equitable route to career development for people from ethnic minority backgrounds by actively targeting learners who did not necessarily achieve high academic grades or attend prestigious universities. By undertaking structured career and leadership development, an apprentice can break beyond the barriers of achievement traditionally facing people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

As a result, representation of Asian, Mixed, Black and Other ethnic groups in apprenticeships has increased over the past 10 years. This has encouraged employers to actively recruit people of colour into apprenticeships as an effective means of widening participation and advancing diverse talent.

Nestlé, for example, has long been a pioneer in amplifying managerial opportunities for ethnically diverse employees across the world. Now, 85% of managerial positions within the company are held by people who truly represent the communities it serves, in fact.

Women in apprenticeships

In the past decade, there have been more women than men in apprenticeships, fairly consistently year-on-year, according to Statista. This demonstrates that apprenticeships successfully act as career entry points for ambitious females. Companies whose apprenticeships perform particularly well on gender balance also tend to provide additional supportive services.

Nestlé, for instance, offers a best practice parental leave policy and offers robust training to prevent sexual harassment. The company also launched its own Gender Balance Acceleration Plan in 2019 to increase the number of women in the top 200 senior executive positions. An apprenticeship is, of course, a great route into leadership, which is exemplified by the fact that 43% of Nestlé management positions are, today, held by women.

To find out more about female achievement in apprenticeships, take a look at our article.

Sexual orientation and apprenticeships

It is illegal in the UK for an employer to discriminate against a person due to their sexual orientation. However, as People Management reports, discrimination against LGBTQ+ people continues to limit their career advancement opportunities.

In 2020, Unionlearn launched its first ever LGBT inclusive apprenticeships guide. Its goal is to explore the barriers LGBTQ+ people face in their careers and help employers to develop robust apprenticeship policies to help advance the careers of this developing sub-group of future talent.

Companies like Nestlé have also been working independently to ensure that gay, bisexual, trans and non-binary apprentices are given every opportunity to develop their careers via robust company commitments, such as:

Equal parental support benefits to same-sex and different-sex couples.
Partnering with Stonewall to advocate for civil rights and workplace protections
• Supporting the UN’s LGBTI Standards of Conduct for Business

The Stonewall report, Shut Out, which focuses on, “the experiences of LGBT young people not in education, training or work,” has proven vital to Nestlé and other companies in helping to develop more inclusive apprenticeship offerings.

Apprenticeships and the differently abled

Thanks to the vocational nature of apprenticeships and the Government’s 2017 ‘Improving Lives’ commitment, career advancement pathways have been dramatically opened up to people of differing physical and mental abilities.

The various levels of apprenticeships on offer have given people with disabilities the chance to engage at their own pace—empowering self-determination and self-reliance, in other words. Additionally, many companies offering apprenticeships actively encourage applications from differently abled people and make concessions to maximise their engagement within the workplace.

Nestlé, for instance, has chosen membership of the ILO Global Business and Disability Network as a means of promoting its inclusion of differently abled employees, as well as signing The Valuable 500 commitment to put disability inclusion on its leadership agenda. This latter commitment, in particular, makes the company an enticing prospect for differently abled candidates looking to undertake an apprenticeship as a route to future management.

Looking for something else to read? Take a look at our article on Escaping the Cycle of Low Income with an Apprenticeship.

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