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Degree Apprenticeships Could Boost Britain’s Faltering Social Mobility

21 March 2017

Research carried out by Professor Julia Clarke of Manchester Metropolitan University on behalf of the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei) has found that more than 70% of employers see degree apprenticeships as a means of increasing social inclusion in the workplace.

The research, launched at enei’s 2017 conference “Social Inclusion… Why Bother?”, investigated the impact of apprenticeships on inclusion issues amongst organisations expecting to pay the Apprenticeship Levy when it is introduced in April 2017. enei discovered that whilst employers were positive about the impact of degree apprenticeships on social and race inclusion, far fewer believed that degree apprenticeships would address disability and gender inequalities.

How positive employers felt about the impact of degree apprenticeships and apprenticeships in general on inclusion issues varied significantly depending on the level of apprenticeship they planned to provide using their Apprenticeship Levy funding. Those planning to offer apprenticeships at level 4 or above were up to 15% more likely to believe that degree apprenticeships offered a means of enhancing inclusivity, but were less likely than those planning to provide lower level apprenticeships to believe that apprenticeships in general held value for increasing inclusion. They were also more likely to see improved productivity as a key way to offset the financial impact of the levy.

Denise Keating, chief executive of enei explained:

“This research shows that organisations intending to invest in high quality apprenticeships expect to see greater benefits across productivity and social mobility than those grudgingly doing the bare minimum to recoup the costs of the levy. For years successive UK governments have failed to tackle social exclusion, and the effects are clearly visible in the ranks of our judges, diplomats and permanent secretaries, over half of which were propelled on their way to success by a private school education.

“Even when those from a less privileged background manage to secure the same roles as their more privileged peers, there still exists an annual socio-economic pay gap of almost £7,000.

“Whilst employers are quite rightly committing their energy to tackle gender and ethnic inequality, this research shows that they may be missing an opportunity to make a real difference through the targeted application of degree apprenticeships. In particular employers are far less likely to see degree apprenticeships delivering benefits for gender equality. The STEM career fields are crying out for female recruits, and degree apprenticeships represent an excellent opportunity to train the next generation of female scientists and engineers.” 

enei Members can read the report here.

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