Westminster Employment Forum: Growing participation and improving diversity in Apprenticeships in England


This Westminster Employment Forum takes place at a crucial time, as concern mounts regarding Apprenticeship starts in light of Government confirming that the manifesto target of 3m starts will not be achieved on time and with industry groups calling for reform of the Apprenticeship Levy.

It also comes with questions about how industry, training providers, government and other stakeholders can realise the aim to improve uptake amongst under-represented and disadvantaged groups, including the Government targeting an increase of 20% BAME starts by 2020.

With target deadlines soon approaching, the agenda will bring out latest thinking on what can be done to address concerns around the decrease in apprenticeship starts since the reforms to the Apprenticeship programme, including low take-up from under-represented groups and a shift away from lower level apprenticeships.

The Forum expect discussion on what can be done to encourage employers to use available funds and attract enough potential recruits to start an apprenticeship - as well as strategies for government, the FE sector and employers to drive growth in apprenticeship take-up.

There will be a keynote address from Kathryn Porter, Vice-Chair, Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network and Director, Youth Strategy, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Hilton Worldwide on how the Apprenticeship Ambassadors Network is working to grow the Apprenticeships programme by engaging new employers and promoting apprenticeships more widely.

Sessions will consider the underlying causes and latest approaches to tackling disparities in provision and uptake in apprenticeships across the regions - including how to encourage a higher uptake of STEM subjects.

The seminar will include discussion on the ‘Opportunities through Apprenticeships’ pilot scheme - with four local authorities trialling the project, developing an action plan and working with employers and local partners to remove barriers, such as awareness, and support access to apprenticeships in their region.

Delegates will consider progress made in each region, and how lessons can be transferred to other local authorities in England. 

The Forum expect discussion on the Apprenticeship levy, amid calls for reform, in particular, the role of different sizes of firms amidst concern from some small businesses that the introduction of the levy has made wider training harder and with uptake among SMEs low.

Delegates will also discuss the collaboration needed between employers, schools, colleges and universities, and with local government, to focus provision, and increase take-up.

The agenda focuses on the perceptions of apprenticeships amongst young people, parents and employers, and how their promotion and marketing alongside traditional academic routes can be improved.

It follows the launch of the ‘Fire it Up’ campaign by the DfE, and as the Department writes to the largest school trusts to encourage increased promotion of apprenticeships within the school system.

Delegates will also examine progress, and further measures needed, to build on improvements in apprenticeship uptake among under-represented and disadvantaged groups, including opportunities in STEM apprenticeships. 

They Forum expect discussion on the Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network, the employer-led network composed of various champions of diversity in industry and progress in sharing and spreading best practice and improving apprenticeship uptake among these groups.

Progress of the ‘5 Cities Project’ will also be discussed, looking at efforts in the first year across the 5 project areas in their objective to increase BAME representation in apprenticeship uptake and the collaborative working with the National Apprenticeship Service and partner organisations to establish ‘apprenticeship hubs’ within the regions.

There will also be discussion on the participation of women in apprenticeships, with overall uptake typically higher than men, but uptake in STEM subjects low.

Delegates will discuss how careers advice and other incentives can improve take-up, and will consider the recommendations of the recent report by the APPG for Women and Work, including changes to the Apprenticeship levy, and the establishment of an apprenticeship bursary fund to improve access to apprenticeships for women from disadvantaged groups and areas.

Further sessions look at the role of apprenticeships in the Civil Service, and progress made towards meeting the objectives of the Civil Service Apprenticeships Strategy, of 30,000 apprenticeship starts by 2020, with each department agreeing to ensure 2.3% of the workforce is made up with apprenticeships.

Delegates will discuss the causes of disparities in progress between departments - such as difficulties in procurement regulation, budget limitations, standards, and the 20% off-the-job training requirement - and will consider how to reduce these disparities and the lessons that can be shared between the private sector and public sector.

Book your place here.