After facing two years of disrupted education, many teenagers must now decide what step to take next in their life…continue in education or enter the workplace? At the end of last year, the Office of National Statistics announced that the number of job vacancies in the UK reached 1.1 million between July and September 2021 – a record high.
Good news, you would expect, for those young people choosing to seek work? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Disadvantage gaps still exist, and brilliant young people from inner city and poorer areas are facing barrier after barrier.
Apprenticeships have often been heralded as a simple way to improve social mobility, as they offer opportunities to develop within the workplace in a wide range of roles. However, since the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in 2017, many larger employers are using it to help existing employees to take degree level apprenticeship courses. They are developing from within, which does nothing to bring new, brilliant minds from a diverse range of backgrounds into the workforce.
This is confirmed by a report by the Social Mobility Commission, which found that; “workplace learners from more deprived backgrounds are less likely to get selected for an apprenticeship than their more privileged peers.”
To improve this, employers must see apprenticeships in a new way and focus on improving two crucial areas: recruitment and outreach.
Don’t let your recruitment become a barrier
Recruitment needs to be inclusive and accessible to people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. For example, stipulating minimum requirements for GCSEs in English and maths on the advert may be a barrier to those young people who haven’t got the grades. However, an apprenticeship would give them the opportunity to gain their English and maths qualifications as part of the programme, so it shouldn’t prevent them from applying. The minimum requirement is unnecessary and serves only to make the recruitment process a blocker.
The UK Government wants to “unleash the power of the private sector to unlock jobs and opportunity for all” with its Levelling Up agenda. As well as giving more people across the country greater opportunities, it will also be crucial for the UK to recover from the pandemic and ensure that we can fill the skills gaps that we are already facing in STEM, digital and creative areas.
On a global scale, the government is also committed to supporting the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which set out a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. Enabling social mobility will play a key part in achieving six of these goals:
- SDG 1 - End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- SDG 4 - Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
- SDG 5 - Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
- SDG 8 - Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
- SDG 10 - Reduce inequality within and among countries
- SDG 11- Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
In July last year the Department for Education (DfE) published its Outcome Delivery Plan which includes how its work will contribute to the delivery of the SDGs. The report has a strong focus on driving growth through apprenticeships so “more employers and individuals can benefit.”
However, the UK will only be able to unlock opportunity for all, reduce inequality and achieve these SDGs, when all people are aware of the opportunities on offer.
Don’t expect a diverse range of candidates to come to you
For apprenticeship programmes to improve social mobility and ‘level up’ the UK, we need to see stronger connections between parents and teachers as the first step, then better outreach from employers and schools to promote apprenticeship opportunities. HR, recruitment and talent teams need to be involved; attending careers fairs, holding employability days, promoting opportunities on social media and actively targeting young people in areas where understanding of apprenticeships is low.
It's easy for larger employers, with well-known brand names, to rely on their traditional recruitment processes and expect candidates to come to them. This is not true for those who want to use apprenticeship programmes to benefit candidates from a wide range of backgrounds. Take the Financial Services Customer Advisor apprenticeship programme for example. This is a role that serves a diverse range of customers and clients, so it makes sense for employers to look for candidates who will bring a mix of ideas, approaches and life experience to the role. To find these candidates, employers must work in partnership with schools, colleges and training providers to take a proactive and dynamic approach to their recruitment and outreach.
All young people deserve the chance to work in fulfilling roles, wherever they live, and whatever their background. Improving apprenticeship recruitment and outreach will give more people that chance.
At Capita, we work in partnership with our clients to develop apprenticeship programmes that help them to improve social mobility and build a strong, diverse and inclusive workforce. To find out more visit Capita apprenticeships.