The Department for Education (DfE) has announced that a group of employers have come together to help promote diversity within apprenticeships.
The Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network (ADCN) is comprised of 23 employers, including Rolls Royce, BBC, BAE Systems and a number of small and medium sized employers.
The network has been established to champion apprenticeships and diversity amongst employers and encourage more people from underrepresented groups, including those with disabilities, women and members of the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, to consider apprenticeships.
It will support the government’s commitment, as part of its ‘2020 vision’, to increase the proportion of apprenticeship starts by people from BAME backgrounds by 20% by 2020.
Nus Ghani MP has been appointed as chair of the network, and will be responsible for setting and shaping the network’s objectives as well as working alongside the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), who played a key role in recruiting the 23 employers to the ADCN.
Skills and Apprenticeships Minister Robert Halfon said:
"I am passionate about ensuring that everyone, no matter their background or age, can use apprenticeships to get on the ladder of opportunity to a successful career.
"Although last year saw record numbers of people with a disability or from disadvantaged backgrounds start on a high-quality apprenticeship, we need to do much more. That is why it is vital that so many diverse employers have come together to pledge to do more to ensure apprenticeships are truly open to everyone.
"I am also extremely pleased that we are announcing Nus Ghani as the chair, with her knowledge, commitment and expertise, I am sure she will do a brilliant job in making sure apprenticeships can work for as many people as possible."
Chair of the Apprenticeships Diversity Championships Network, Nus Ghani MP said:
"An apprenticeship can be the first step to a life-enhancing career. It can open up opportunities, provide inspiration and allow someone to develop skills which will carry them through life. In a competitive and challenging labour market, apprenticeships can be the way in for many people who might otherwise not have dared to dream that there was a fulfilling career path for them.
"I am honoured to have been appointed by the Prime Minister as chair of the government’s Apprenticeships Diversity Champions Network. I am determined that anyone from anywhere, whatever their background and whatever their story, is able to access the life-changing opportunities that apprenticeships can offer.
"The benefits of earning whilst you are learning, coupled with professional certification, will help enable apprentices to achieve a competitive edge in the labour market. Our whole society benefits when aspiration and opportunity is extended to all, and those benefits encompass the economy, community cohesiveness and national pride.
"I will be ambitious for apprentices and challenge all industries, public and private, to deliver quality apprenticeships across the country. As the economy goes from strength to strength we need to ensure that opportunities are available to all. I will be scrupulous in ensuring that the Apprenticeships Diversity Champions Network opens up career options and delivers much needed skills for our traditional and emerging industries."
Beyond the network, the government is working to ensure social mobility for all with a range of measures including implementing recommendations from a task force, led by Paul Maynard, which has focused on issues faced by people with disabilities.
The network will build on this to ensure more people with disabilities, people from BAME backgrounds and women in sectors where they are under-represented can take up apprenticeships.