There are plenty of reasons – ethical and business-led – for organisations to aspire to a more diverse workforce. This could take the form of increasing gender diversity, aiming for greater representation of different ethnicities, religions and ages, improving access to roles to those with disabilities, and increasing LGBTQ representation in the workforce. Making this a central part of apprenticeship recruitment can be an effective way of improving diversity: a diverse apprentice intake – young people who will then move through the business in various roles and to various positions – can mean a diverse workforce in the future. Research shows multiple reasons for aiming to do this, as well as multiple methods by which to do it.
A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that diversity increases the bottom line for companies. The study found that "increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance."
It looked at 1,700 different companies across eight different countries, with varying industries and company sizes. They have found that increasing diversity has a direct effect on the bottom line. Companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation. This finding is especially relevant to tech companies, start-ups, and industry where innovation is the key to growth.
AllAboutSchoolLeaver’s research shows that the majority of apprentice employers (52%) think that diversity “very important” to their business, with a further 26% saying that it is “quite important”.
Using apprenticeships to diversify
64% of respondents in AllAboutSchoolLeaver’s research say they recruit school leavers to attract top talent before their competitors do, but the results show that diversity plays a role too. Over half say school leavers are a good way to diversify a workforce, and the same number thinks recruiting school leavers is an excellent way to improve employee retention rates: a diverse new intake can remain in the business.
However, when asked if they had any “hard evidence” to show that apprenticeships had actually helped diversify their organisation, half of respondents said yes, and half said no.
Anecdotally, there is some evidence that apprenticeships can help diversify an organisation. Buckinghamshire Fire Service – according to a piece written last year by Sue Husband, director of the National Apprenticeship Service – said that the organisation was beginning to see a positive effect on the diversity of its workforce through apprenticeships, particularly among its operational staff.
The organisation found that the average age of its operational workforce was increasing, so in 2016 it began to use apprenticeships as a way to restart the growth of its operational workforce and inject a regular intake of new, younger talent into the organisation. BFRS has now seen a drop in the average age of its operational employees, with the average age in 2014-15 being 40.3, falling to 38.5 in 2016-7.
It also doubled the number of women in operational employee roles, from 3% in 2014-15 to 6% in 2016-17, while the number of operational staff from BAME backgrounds also doubled in the same time period.
What can employers do?
If we know that both ethically and from a business perspective, diversity is a positive thing for an organisation, then employers should aim to recruit as diverse a workforce as possible, and that includes their apprentice intake.
Addressing barriers to entry for particular groups can improve diversity. Take wages, for example. AllAboutGroup’s research shows that 12% of parents/guardians say they could not support their children at all if they had to relocate for an apprenticeship. 67% said it would depend on the scale of the cost, but the amounts they were able to offer varied.
£50-£100 per month was deemed an acceptable level of financial support by 29% of parents/guardians and 25% of parents would give £101-£200 a month. Without parental financial support, it is therefore impossible for most school leavers to relocate to London in order to do an apprenticeship, for example, and very difficult for Level 2 and 3 apprentices to even move out of the family home in other parts of the country.
Throughout the UK, statistics show that people from BAME groups are much more likely to be in poverty (ie an income of less than 60% of the median household income) than white British people. In 2015, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities were the most likely to be in ‘persistent poverty’, followed by Black African and Black Caribbean communities. This means that BAME young people could be even less likely to receive much financial support than their white counterparts. Apprentice employers should consider offering higher wages than average for their programmes in order to make them a viable option to young people from all economic backgrounds.
“I set out a clear target market to AllAboutGroup and they ensured that the right people came to our events. I've never met a team more enthusiastic to help!”
Dharmini Mistry, Marketing Manager, The Institute and Faculty of Actuaries
Where and how employers advertise schemes can also make a big difference to the diversity of applicants they receive. For example, if a business wants to increase the number of female applicants for an accountancy apprenticeship, they could engage specifically with girls’ schools when recruiting.
Using services like AllAboutSchoolLeavers can make targeting specific groups easier. Over 500,000 young people use AllAboutSchoolLeavers’ tools each year, and the organisation works directly with over 3,000 schools across the UK.
“The best part of working with AllAboutGroup is they take the time to understand my business and help to raise our brand's awareness in our market to ensure the right people see my content.”
Mark Smith, Lead Attraction Consultant, Severn Trent Water
Through innovative data capture methods they can help employers target key messages to specific groups of candidates – through emails, newsletters, targeted advertising, and face-to-face events – boosting the number of applications and engagements with young people from particular groups.
Increasing diversity has a direct effect on the bottom line: companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation.
The majority of apprentice employers (52%) think that diversity “very important” to their business, with a further 26% saying that it is “quite important”.
Buckinghamshire Fire Service used apprenticeships to double the number of female and BAME employees in particular roles.
Apprentice wages are a barrier to entry for many young people.
Using targeted marketing can increase the number of applications from specific groups.