106 Communications

6th Sense

Social Mobility and Apprenticeships: what can employers do?

March 2017 | Apprenticeships, Employer Brand

The gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen.

In 1958, 31% of children born to a family in the bottom quarter based on income remained among the poorest 25% based on income as adults.

In 1970, 38% of children stayed within poorest 25% as an adult.

At the same time, people from the highest income families were more likely to stay within that income bracket (from 35% in 1958 to 45% in 1970).

There are a number of factors that contribute to social mobility, but much of the debate on social mobility focuses on education, access to education and educational opportunities.  Because ultimately education helps people to gain the opportunities they need to improve their earning capacity.

Often employers will bemoan the government for producing kids that don’t have the employability skills to be deemed ‘good enough’ for their organisation.  Indeed, the Low-income pupils’ progress at secondary school report shows that pupils from lower incomes are failing in many schools because of the lack of support for them.

In light of this, it would be easy for employers to say they can’t do anything about it.  There’s a lot they can do.

The Apprenticeship Levy provides an opportunity for employers to look again at their talent programmes – and think about how they can help young people from low-income families to join their organisations.

  • Are you using Apprenticeships simply to hire top A Level students and therefore not have to recruit so many graduates?  Or could you focus Apprenticeships on people that have far fewer opportunities?
  • What are some of the key skills that you could grow in your organisation (e.g. digital skills) that could transform lives of young people?
  • How do you support young people, sometimes from families who don’t have a history of working, to  gain the self-esteem and confidence to be successful?

Through our work, research and conversations with organisations, we can see the following opportunities:

Be bold in your thinking – apprenticeships shouldn’t just be about replacing grads with top A level students.  Apprenticeships can be transformative in terms of skills, backgrounds and culture.

Be bold in your engagement – think about the different schools, colleges, community groups and other stakeholders you can engage with.  Talk to these different groups, find out the opportunities and concerns, and be more personal, empathetic and inspiring in your engagement.

Be bold in your recruitment – putting everyone through the same recruitment process is not the answer.  Think about how you can mentor people to help them understand what you are looking for.  Be flexible in your approach – why does everyone have to go through your ATS and competency-based selection process, especially if they’ve never done anything like this before?

We know that the Apprenticeship clock is ticking, but don’t look at this as a short-term solution to recruitment; it should be a long-term, sustainable vision of how you can make apprenticeships an opportunity, rather than simply a talent programme for graduates re-badged.

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