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Improving apprenticeships for all

Published: 12/03/2015

It's National Apprenticeship Week, but is everyone getting the chance to benefit?

This week is National Apprenticeship Week, designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

Apprenticeships bring benefits to learners and employers; learners have the opportunity to gain job-specific skills while studying towards a related qualification, employers can develop a motivated, skilled and qualified workforce.

Unfortunately, there is evidence that some apprenticeships opportunities are not available to all. Figures from the Skills Funding Agency highlight that although just over half of all-age apprentices are women, there is considerable variety by subject area; women make up 80% of apprenticeship starts in health, public services and care but just 7% in engineering and manufacturing technologies. Further, some apprenticeship offers are not bringing the best out of the talent of their disabled apprentices, with the success rate for disabled learners at 68%, 5% lower than the success rate for non-disabled learners.

The Equality and Diversity Good Practice Fund, which supports projects that help learners to participate and achieve in further education, has funded 14 projects which look to change these trends. Project aims include:

  • Developing a pilot apprenticeship programme for disabled learners using innovative and appropriately tailored teaching and assessment methodologies
  • Encouraging young people in making informed choices about apprenticeship routes, particularly when wanting to enter traditionally gender-biased industries
  • Providing staff who work directly with potential and current apprentices with the tools, techniques and confidence to tackle homophobic bullying
  • Improving the participation, retention and achievement of female apprentices by devolving and extending student-support mechanisms for remote learners
  • Developing a range of progression pathways into traineeships and apprenticeships through partnerships with local employers
  • Establishing a physical and virtual staff peer support group to enable the exchange of best practice used in addressing race, gender and disability issues with learners and other staff

Importantly, all of the projects aim to embed, sustain and spread good practice so outputs are of benefit to the whole of the sector. This has been done by, for example, strong partnership working, setting up mechanisms for good practice to be integrated into operational structures, developing long-term action plans, gaining strategic commitment at an institutional level through senior management involvement, and developing mechanisms for the continual appraisal of practices that are working.

ECU will communicate the good practice coming from these projects widely to the sector in July.

Full details of all the 29 projects can be found on our Equality and Diversity Good Practice Fund hub. These projects address a number of key themes, including engaging with employers and addressing stereotyping in apprenticeships.