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Roundtable celebrates diversity in apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are a great way for employers to recruit, develop and retain a more diverse workforce. They enable employers to tap into a broader talent pool, which improves diversity of skills and thinking in the workplace. This makes employers more able to meet the challenges facing them today and in the future, as well as enabling them to meet diversity and inclusion targets. And by widening access to learning and job opportunities, apprenticeships create more equal opportunities for all. 

These are just some of the many findings at a roundtable sponsored by The Open University (OU) and theHRDIRECTOR (HRD), a publication for senior leaders in HR. 

The roundtable discussion, called Diversity in Apprenticeships – opening up talent and opportunity, explored the challenges and opportunities presented by the drive to achieve a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Several employers contributed to the discussion, including Health Education England, Surrey & Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and North Yorkshire Police. 

Viren Patel, Director of the Business Development Unit at the OU and part of the roundtable discussion, said there has recently been a renewed interest in apprenticeships as a way to build internal talent pipelines and for succession planning.

We are seeing increasingly more requests about upskilling existing employees, particularly in leadership and management, because of the perceived and actual difficulties of hiring in competitive markets such as engineering and technology.

Viren Patel
OU Director of the Business Development Unit

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit in early 2020, people were worried that issues such as diversity and inclusion would take a back seat for many employers. Viren said it is heartening that it remains on the agenda as we transition into the new normal.

Laura Burley, Apprenticeships Ambassador at the OU, also took part in the roundtable. She agrees that employers are again looking at apprenticeships in order to boost diversity and build skills, highlighting the OU’s Business Barometer Report 2020, in which over half of the 1,000 organisations surveyed said apprenticeships will be vital to their economic and business recovery. “Within that survey, we also asked businesses about how apprenticeships will be important to help them in the diversity of their workforce and about 45% said that diversity and apprenticeships would be critical.”

HRD has also written about the roundtable in its March edition, Issue 197. The piece can be read on the HRD website.

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