By: Richard Goodwin, Managing Director
One of the tricks of content production is to re-purpose content. We originally wrote much of this text for a tender but thought that for a broader church of people it might add to the debate around how apprenticeships can be an asset in making workforces more inclusive and diverse.
In ten years since JGA launched apprenticeships, we have maintained a strong focus on diversity and increasing social mobility. Over the duration, participation and success rates for learners with protected characteristics and non-conventional backgrounds are high. We have supported more than 4,000 apprentices: 67% women, 54% BAME, 10% aged 50+. 152 have presented as disabled. 82% of apprentices had prior qualifications of full level 2 or below when starting with us.
BAME apprentices, women, and those with lower levels of prior education have done excellently: 78% of BAME apprentices and 77% of those previously at level 2 or lower achieved their apprenticeships, strongly above national averages. Similar patterns are repeated for women and other groups.
We do not discriminate on background or prior qualifications – candidates with the right attitude and job role are supported with robust careers information advice and guidance; they can succeed in apprenticeships of any level.
Our work with professional bodies like the Data & Marketing Association has the explicit objective of using apprenticeships to improve diversity and inclusion within professions. This is recognised by the fact that our four West London Business Awards Apprentice of the Year winners since 2017 have all been from disadvantaged and/or immigrant backgrounds.
Our contribution to diversifying the apprenticeship population and increasing social mobility was recognised in September 2020 by our receipt of the BAME Apprenticeship Network Training Provider of the Year Award for “a network of inspirational role models… to actively promote the positive benefits of undertaking an apprenticeship… [and making] real change and real impact within and by BAME communities.”
This is reflected in our own structures with a reflective balance by gender, disability and ethnicity at senior levels. This wasn’t deliberate or the result of positive discrimination, we just selected the right people for the job and offer staff opportunities to develop their careers.
Apprentices and employers benefit from comprehensive support, 1:1 interaction and access to Learner Progress Advisers who help identify and overcome potential barriers to achievement. They are from a diverse range of backgrounds: apprentices are paired with advisers with whom we believe they can look up to and relate.
Apprentices with neurodiversity challenges are offered the opportunity of fully funded professional support from the psychologists of our partners, Genius Within. We tackle issues of access to IT by lending equipment when apprentices don’t have access to appropriate hardware or software at home. We are Disability Confident, offer prayer facilities, take into account religious and school holidays and non-standard working hours.
We are very pleased with the results of the work we are doing with one central government profession in which provisional data indicates that our involvement with recruitment has massively increased diversity. There is no secret to this, we worked with the National Careers Service, employability providers, advertised through the National Apprenticeship Service and Jobcentres. We only hope that the client is as pleased as we are!
There are definitely rewards for success. In our case, the BAME Apprenticeship Award has definitely done us no harm commercially and in early 2021, in this our 30th anniversary year, we won the 2021 Queen’s Award for Enterprise (Promoting Opportunity). We look forward to the formal presentation at our next Team Forum.
In conclusion, whether you are an employer, a training provider or both, diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be seen as a cost but as a benefit.
To make it work, you need to offer a vision, flexibility and opportunities