Tech apprenticeships provide an accessible entry point for individuals from diverse backgrounds. 'Apprenticeships are a unique way to ‘grow your own’; they combine on-the-job training in an organisation with off-the-job learning', CIPD.
➖ Start by reading the Social Mobility Commission's 'Apprenticeships that work for all: A practical toolkit for employers, training providers and apprenticeship practitioners'.
➖'You can't be what you can't see'. Apprentice applicants from underrepresented groups will be more attracted to an organisation if they see people there who look, speak and act like them across different levels of seniority.
➖Remove unnecessary and prohibitive pre-requisites for entry. Be realistic about what prior experience and training a candidate actually needs in order for them learn how to do the job
you’ve created. In many cases they may not need any prior experience or training at all.
➖Use appropriate language that someone new to the industry (or world of work) will understand. Understanding jargon isn’t a measure of someone’s ability to learn how to do a job.
➖Demystify the application process. See Sky's apprenticeship programme brochure.
➖Collect and analyse diversity data (including socio-economic data) on apprentices to check you are in fact recruiting a diverse group of apprentices.
➖Challenge processes and biases inherent in recruitment attraction and selection methods. One common bias is accent and can get in the way of candidates being heard and taken seriously. Another bias is confirmation bias. When you hear people provide feedback along the lines of, ‘I don’t think that they are the right fit’, challenge what that really means and question whether actually it’s their difference that doesn't make them the right 'fit'.
➖Pay the living wage set by the Living Wage Foundation.
➖Offer flexible apprenticeship options (part-time, remote working etc) to attract and enable parents, carers and people who are disabled to apply and participate.
➖Prepare apprentices before they join the organisation. Young apprentices may have limited experience in terms of working environments. Your outreach, recruitment and induction programme needs to reflect this. Consider using workshop-based outreach activities, rethink assessment centres so they’re more experiential and introduce a development phase to upskill apprentices and prepare them to add value from day one.
➖Create a welcoming culture. Apprentices require ongoing support, development and understanding of managers and colleagues. Coordinate group check-ins for apprentices to build their support community.
How to create an environment where diverse apprentices can flourish
'...is the company creating an environment where apprentices can thrive?
I see it time and time again. Bright, new starters from diverse backgrounds join an organisation but then meet a broken rung on the career ladder that stops them from moving on at the same rate as their colleagues in the majority group.
To retain apprentices from diverse backgrounds, take an individual approach to managing them and understanding their needs. Value their difference and what’s important to them. Let them feel seen, heard and appreciated, without having to fit into a mould that isn’t aligned with who they are.
One manager I know, a Christian, fasted with his colleague for a day during Ramadan to gain a better understanding of his experience and faith. By doing so, he showed an interest, developed empathy and was able to amend any policies, systems or processes that may have hindered his colleague from feeling he could practise his faith.
It’s also important to be an ally. An apprentice from a minority background may be visible for their mistakes and not for the good work they do. They can be marginalised, their comments ignored or not taken seriously, and not invited out to social events with their colleagues.
As an ally, you can step in to support them by amplifying their comments and backing them up so they are heard. A simple way to do this is by saying things like, ‘I think X made a great point, shall we explore that a little more?’. Another is by ‘calling in’ behaviour that inadvertently or purposefully excludes, for example by questioning why someone might not be the right fit for an opportunity', Jenny Garrett in 'How firms can use apprenticeships to boost diversity'.
Hackathon apprenticeship resources
During a Tech Talent Charter Hackathon, subject matter experts co-designed a new employer product on 'How to create a Tech Apprenticeship Programme'.
- Webinar: develop talent through apprenticeships, drive social mobility, Social Mobility Commission
- Video: Are apprenticeships the answer to getting more women into tech?, SheCanCode
- Article: How firms can use apprenticeships to boost diversity, Raconteur
- Article: How My Company Created an Apprenticeship Program to Help Diversify Tech, HBR
- Research: Routes to Tech - Learner perceptions of non-traditional tech training pathways, Tech Talent Charter and Attest
- Website: Flying Start Degree: Technology, PwC
- Article: 3 ways to support socially diverse apprentices, Institute of Student Employers