Representation in Apprenticeships

UK’s engineering workforce

Representation in Apprenticeships

The UK is currently in the midst of a skills gap crisis. With an ageing workforce, many businesses are stagnating in their opportunities to upskill in the workplace. Similarly, the younger generation are leaving education not prepared for life in the workplace.

With rapid technological advancements, employers are finding it increasingly difficult to find the right person to fill a job role.  Nine out of ten employers are struggling to find skilled workers, with Brexit set to make the shortage worse.

So, what is the solution to the skills gap crisis?

Are apprenticeships the answer?

Apprenticeships allow young people to not only gain practical and relevant experience on the job but also receive a qualification at the end.

By setting up an apprenticeship scheme, businesses can create a talent pipeline across their company, leading to an increase in productivity, staff retention and diversity.

Problem: lack of representation

 A select committee report published in October 2018, highlighted the systemic issues with apprenticeships in the UK:

  • Under representation among gender, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and care leavers.
  • Too many apprentices are simply not getting the high-quality training they deserve.
  • Financial disadvantages of apprenticeships, that many employers don’t understand the rules around apprentice pay, leaving too many apprentices paid below the legal minimum.

Although gender amongst apprenticeships is relatively balanced, the breakdown between sectors shows that women are significantly underrepresented in sectors such as engineering and manufacturing. Only 11% of the UK’s engineering workforce are women. Whilst men are underrepresented in low pay sectors such as children and young people’s workforce.

Despite government policies, there has not been significant progress in addressing the inequalities that lie with the small number of people that enter an apprenticeship.

Diversity in apprenticeships is something that has received little attention, which explains why little progress has been made in apprenticeship programmes.  Those from minority ethnic backgrounds make up just 6% of the workforce.

Solution: how to get girls into apprenticeships

Whilst there is no shortage of schemes in attempting to address the representation in apprenticeships, these approaches have to be tailor made to the specific environment in order to be successful.

  • Schools outreach – Employers should be encouraged to visit local schools to encourage applications and interest. There is a consensus that role models are an effective source of inspiration for girls and BAME.
  • Supported apprenticeships and placements.
  • Community outreach – Programmes or events focusing on minorities, such as ‘Women in Apprenticeships’ are seen to create inclusivity and promote opportunities.

How to get BAME into apprenticeships

  • Positive action – Employers should strive to include diversity on their shortlist of applicants and ensure recruitment panels are using fair and equal recruitment practises, including anonymised CVs and unconscious bias training.
  • Community outreach – Research has shown that those from minority and migrant backgrounds regard the message of equality as very important.
  • Supported apprenticeships and placements.

Our apprentice school is the perfect learning experience for all, no matter their gender or background.

Here at Dawson Shanahan, we are always striving to introduce engineering to the younger generation. Most importantly young girls, as seen with by our work with the Engineering Education Scheme Wales, ‘Girls in STEM’ event.  If you don’t believe us, just ask our Quality Manager, Shelagh.

If you are interested in an apprenticeship in engineering, click here for more information.