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Enabling social mobility in apprenticeships

Enabling Social Mobility webinar

Learning and development is key to improving social mobility in the workplace. That’s why The Open University (OU) partnered up with TrainingZone earlier this year to produce the whitepaper L&D’s role in enabling social mobility.

In support of the whitepaper, the OU recently took part in a webinar called Enabling Social Mobility in Apprenticeships, hosted by the Apprenticeship Diversity and Social Mobility Forum, a thought leadership forum sharing knowledge and insights for social and economic development, run by The Pathway Group.

Jagdeep Soor, Head of Strategic Partnerships at The Pathway Group, opened the webinar, talking about why social mobility (equality, diversity, inclusion and equity of opportunity) is so important. 

It’s pivotal to making positive change in socio-economic issues, embracing the society we live in and ultimately, improving the lives of marginalised communities..

Jagdeep Soor
Head of Strategic Partnerships, The Pathway Group

There were two speakers in the first half of the webinar - Phil Kenmore, Director of Corporate Development and Partnerships at the OU, and Jessica Leigh Jones MBE, co-founder and CEO of the technology start up iungo Solutions and author of the OU/TrainingZone whitepaper.

Phil began his talk by sharing a few statistics that demonstrate the OU’s commitment to widening access to learning:

  • 26% of OU undergraduates in the UK live in the 25% most deprived areas
  • 77% of OU undergraduates had no previous HE qualifications on entry
  • 37,000 OU students have a declared a disability

Phil said the OU sees itself as a social movement as much as a higher education institution.

One of our key goals is equity – that’s core to everything we do. Social mobility underpins a huge amount of the work that we do and is foremost in a lot of our thinking.

Phil Kenmore
Director of Corporate Development and Partnerships, The Open University
Webinar presentation slide

The OU works with employers to deliver a wide range of apprenticeships and Skills Bootcamps as it believes they are two vitally important ways that organisations can upskill their workforce, improve people’s social mobility and plug skills gaps at the same time.

Jessica started her working life as an apprentice electrician and now is a multi-award winning engineer and entrepreneur. “I came through an inner city Cardiff school in an area where there were not many opportunities, but there was a lot of talent. Somebody invested in me – somebody gave me an opportunity. I’m a firm believer that talent is everywhere, but opportunity often isn’t.”

As well as authoring the whitepaper on behalf of the OU and TrainingZone, Jessica has also produced this video discussing its findings and why it’s important:

Both Phil and Jessica believe that employers and learning institutions can help people unlock their talent, while at the same time improving organisational innovation, growth and creating more prosperous and resilient communities. Case studies of OU learners, Mason (iungo Solutions), Fola (Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust) and Fiaz (North Yorkshire Police) were shared to illustrate social mobility in action.

In the second half of the webinar Edward Donkor, Head of Stakeholder Outreach at the Social Mobility Commission, talked about the importance of workplace learning opportunities such as apprenticeships to enable social mobility. “It’s about ensuring that your socio-economic background doesn’t determine your outcomes in life,” he said. “It’s about fairness.”

Following on from Edward, Kasim Choudhry, at Pathway Group, Multicultural Apprenticeship Ambassador and Events Director at The Pathway Group’s ThinkFest, was the final speaker. He began his talk by picking up on Jessica’s comments about equity. “We need to understand what equity means,” he said. “For me, equity is about understanding the challenges that each individual has and how we can make sure it is a level playing field – so that we are all starting the race at the same level, as opposed to at the same starting point.”

Kasim thinks employers need to think about the meaning of equity and how they can make their organisations more equitable so that everyone has access to opportunities, such as apprenticeships.

Download the whitepaper L&D’s role in enabling social mobility

Learn more about Open University apprenticeships


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