Systemic Racism in Apprentice Recruitment not Tackled

Systemic Racism in Apprentice Recruitment not Tackled f (1)

A race report “avoids tackling” systemic racism in apprentice recruitment. An ethnic minority representative group has now slammed the report.

An ethnic minority representative group has criticised a prime ministerial commission’s proposal for an apprentice recruitment campaign “highly targeted” at diverse communities.

The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities alleged that “prejudice and ignorance” within ethnic minority families led to a low take-up of apprenticeship starts in their communities.

FE Week analysis of government data shows that 13% of the 332,500 apprenticeship starts in 2019/20 were by BAME learners.

This is compared to 15% of England’s BAME population.

The key proposal of the commission to tackle this issue was a “highly targeted” apprenticeship recruitment campaign, designed by the Department for Education (DfE) and the Department for Work and Pensions, and delivered by FE colleges and school career hubs.

The report stated: “Our view is that such a campaign could be of particular benefit to young people who face discrimination or disadvantage and currently lack access to in-depth information about the full range of career pathways.”

However, the commission’s proposal has been criticised by the Black Training and Enterprise Group.

It said the recommendation “fundamentally avoids tackling unfair and discriminatory employer recruitment practices”.

The group claims this has affected sectors including construction, engineering and technology, where BAME people “continue to be under-represented in jobs and apprenticeships”.

The group explained: “Far too much recruitment in the UK relies on word-of-mouth recruitment, informal methods, attending the right schools and universities, and looking like the recruiters and having similar sounding names.”

Chief executive Jeremy Crook said that overall, the report “failed to grasp the considerable evidence of institutional and structural racism in the UK,” and BTEG was calling on the government to “rethink its approach”.

In response to the report, Lia Nici, chair of the government’s Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network, said:

“There is still a lot of work to do to ensure our apprenticeships, and the careers that develop from them, fully represent the diverse mixture of people in the UK.”

She added that the report “highlights a wide range of issues with regard to diversity and race in the UK”, not just in terms of ethnicity.

Nici said: “We also know that there are fewer apprentices who have disabilities, as well as females working in science, engineering, technology or maths-based roles.

“We want to encourage apprentices from a broader range of backgrounds.”

She explained that the champions network was already discussing “a range of targeted activities” in order to encourage apprenticeships in communities that have not seen a strong take-up.

The under-representation of BAME people in apprenticeships is not new.

In a 2018 essay for the Learning and Work Institute, Crook told a group of mostly BAME foundation degree students that “more academic qualifications will give them a better chance of success in the labour market”.

But he also wrote that “the reality is that BAME graduates have higher rates of unemployment than white graduates”.

A 2018 report by Apprenticeships and Diversity in Context in Greater Manchester found that BAME young people “aspire to and are encouraged towards high educational attainment”, with family and community expectations being “especially significant [whereas] apprenticeships are not seen as enabling aspiration to the same degree”.

The DfE’s public attempts to amend low ethnic minority take-up goes back to when Justine Greening was the education secretary under Theresa May.

Greening was accused of being “all talk” after telling the education select committee that the government had a “big focus” on encouraging “a higher proportion of BAME young people going into apprenticeships”.

This came after FE Week found that just 8% of England’s apprentices were BAME.

Since then, the DfE says it has “ensured that young BAME role models are visible in campaigns such as ‘Fire It Up’, and that we are hearing the voices of young apprentices (including BAME) through apprentice networks, such as the Young Apprentice Ambassador Network and the Apprentice Panel”.