An Opinion Editorial by Helen Grant MP
It can neither be right nor fair that in this day and age, in Britain, your chances in life can be determined by the colour of your skin. It seems almost medieval that your chances of securing employment may be a lottery of where you live within Britain, or how rich your parents are.
The Prime Minister is absolutely right to say that those individuals who have faced discrimination or disadvantage in their lives don’t need a report to tell them that it still exists. Nonetheless, today’s report into racial disparity, backed up by clear and undeniable facts, has shone a light on a very harsh reality – and one we must all accept if we wish to make real change.
As such, I wholeheartedly welcome today’s report, and the opportunity that it gives us to move forward in a more positive way, and engender true equality of opportunity for all. These stories of injustice aren’t new to us, yet we continue to be shocked. There can be no reason that your ethnicity dictates your chances of success in securing a job or apprenticeship, and we must work collectively to ensure that this is no longer the case, that barriers are removed and approaches challenged.
If today’s report tells us one thing, it is that the status quo is not good enough.
Last month I took up post as the Chair of the Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network (ADCN). Our members are employers who are passionate advocates of social mobility, who share my belief that someone’s future should not be determined by their past. Members, such as Brighton Council, KPMG, United Utilities and the NHS are challenging traditional approaches to recruitment, selection and progression, to ensure that they truly advocate fairness for all.
The BBC have moved to strength based interviewing, and now offer a set number of bursaries to enable those from disadvantaged backgrounds to take part. Barclays have partnered with organisations such as the Princes Trust to deliver employability programmes, and now have a dedicated programme of support for those struggling with mental health. Keir have launched internal diversity training which should reach over 20,000 employees, and along with Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, Balfour Beatty and AWE are delivering apprenticeship advice to tens of thousands of students from disadvantaged areas and schools with a high proportion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME).
ADCN Members such as NG Bailey are setting aspirational targets for the BAME apprenticeship levels, with London based provider DiVA already achieving over 30% BAME representation in their programmes. Be it parents information pages, myth busters, employability training, working with local Jobcentres, or ensuring that diversity and inclusion are a key feature of Boardroom discussions, ADCN members have made a conscious decision to help remove obstacles – and ensure that there truly is a level playing field from which candidates, no matter their ethnicity, can take a shot at securing an apprenticeship.
This proves that there is more than can be done. As Yorkshire Water said to me recently, there is no such thing as hard to reach groups, we just need to reach them differently. I would encourage more employers, in light of today’s report, to make a positive change and make a pledge to the ADCN. More information on how to apply is available by clicking here.
One common theme that our members would all agree with, is that a diverse workforce makes good business sense. It is an absolute no brainer to tap the potential of as wide a talent pool as possible, as well as help embed greater fairness in recruitment practices. The Government has a public target to increase BAME apprenticeship representation by 20%, by 2020. We are making good progress, but there is more to do. I will today write to all Government Departments explaining that apprenticeships are a key part of the answer, they enable new entrants and support progression, and as such are the perfect vehicle for enabling greater social mobility.
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