Democratisation in the workplace: how apprenticeships are key

7.5 mins read time

In a post-pandemic world, businesses need a skilled and resilient workforce to create business success and innovation – creating diversity and cultural change is key.

Apprenticeships are proven to lead to a more satisfied and motivated workforce. According to the social mobility commission, 92% of firms who run an apprenticeship scheme believe this is true.

Boosting social mobility and increasing diversity means that businesses gain access to a new talent pool. These new employees inject different worldviews into a work culture, a wide variety of experience and in turn can create a rounded, balanced and successful workforce.

It’s increasingly challenging for those young people from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds, as well as from BAME communities, to gain access to training and career progression. Unsurprisingly the pandemic has negatively affected this: in June 2020, there was a 36% decline in apprenticeship starts by people from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to 23% of starts for those from more affluent backgrounds.

The pandemic has widened this gap especially when it comes to hardest-hit sectors, such as hospitality and retail. At Lifetime, we believe that everyone deserves a life-changing opportunity. By opening up access to skills training, we’re working with our partners to build a more valuable and inclusive workforce.

Here we explain the benefits apprenticeships bring to businesses and how they can boost valuable democratisation of the workforce.


What are the benefits of apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships develop vital skills in employees and young people, building a growth mindset that can introduce real change to your business.

Particular fields such as IT and Software can be harder to access for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Apprenticeships offer on-the-job training and the ability to build career progression from the ground up.

With a growth mindset, apprentices will have the ability to embrace challenges, never stop learning and find inspiration in the success of others, spreading positivity across your organisation.

At Lifetime, our apprenticeship programmes support candidates from all different backgrounds to get the most out of their qualifications. 26% of apprentices currently working towards an apprenticeship are from disadvantaged postcodes, which align to The Social Mobility Commissions 20% most deprived areas.

We offer mentoring with learner support specialists and learners use an online learning platform that is accessible anytime, anywhere. Our coaches make sure that candidates and businesses support each other through apprenticeships with the right processes in place.

Alongside core training and on-the-job learning, apprenticeships also teach transferable skills, such as communication, teamwork, presentation skills and emotional intelligence, which are all vital to building a modern workforce.

Apprenticeship programmes enrich your business from the ground up, with initial cohorts able to help and mentor new incoming candidates. Apprentices gain detailed knowledge of your company and the culture, which means you have a fresh pipeline of employees, who know your business inside-out, and bring new ideas of their own.

Read more about the benefits of apprenticeships for employers here.

Why are apprenticeships good for social mobility?

The value of apprenticeships for social mobility and democratisation of the workplace cannot be overstated. However there is a long way to go in making sure they are as instrumental as possible and reaching the right young people.

The way that apprenticeship programmes are structured, with learning combined with on-the-job training, enables those from more deprived and/or minority backgrounds and groups, to get support with learning and formal training that might otherwise be inaccessible to them because of financial constraints or other barriers.

Apprenticeships also support financial mobility, whether it’s remote learning if getting to training centres isn’t possible, or support around purchasing training materials. Apprenticeships support financial stability too, so students don’t end up getting into debt.

By helping to open up the workplace to a wider range of candidates, apprenticeships also help students lead by example. It enables younger peers to become what they can see, spreading awareness of industries and job roles that they might not have previously been aware of.

And when it comes to support hub roles, like in IT, Marketing or HR apprenticeships, many school leavers don’t know these roles even exist (let alone that they can work their way up to degree level apprenticeships from accessible entry-level roles).

By democratising industries that have previously been quite exclusive to one particular type of candidate, apprenticeships are helping to diversify business and open up access for minority groups too. Work-based learning in itself can reduce barriers to entering the workplace, helping young people to gain recognised and certified skills and qualifications.

Do apprenticeships increase diversity?

Diversity is vital to the future of any organisation, providing a more open-minded and varied workplace. It’s important to nurture apprentices to consolidate the successful democratisation and cultural change of a business.

They’re a fantastic way to develop a future pool of talent, especially in particular business areas that are hard to recruit for. Recruiting apprentices is a great starting point for improving diversity, especially in sectors that might have previously recruited from areas of more privileged socio-economic status.

Apprenticeships provide a level playing field to everyone looking past background, gender or ethnicity and make sure that every candidate can fulfil their true potential. And, it also means that employers can benefit from a wide variety of experiences, skills and perspectives.

It seems that in general, businesses understand there is an issue with lack of talent and skills, but counterintuitively, many minority groups have been unable to access the real opportunities that apprentices can provide.

When it comes to specifically BAME apprenticeship opportunities, figures show that representation in apprenticeships is up, though there is still a long way to go in breaking down cultural barriers. Research shows there are also many applications from BAME students, but that these candidates are often not getting through the application process.

This appears to be because recruitment in some industries is quite often done via word of mouth and to succeed it’s about ‘who you know’, cutting out numbers of BAME applicants.

It seems even well-intentioned employers can sometimes be disconnected from an inclusive recruitment process. Agile approaches to entry-level recruitment are vital. A new generation of talent brings diversity, which can be turned into highly skilled employees.

Lifetime’s multi-channel approach to apprenticeship recruitment means that candidates are carefully shortlisted to make sure that no one is discriminated against. With our experienced team and wide online reach, opportunities are open to all.

As Patron members of the BAME Apprenticeship Alliance, Lifetime are able to seek advice and guidance on best practice and new ways of working to make sure our recruitment services are inclusive and work harder for the BAME community.

Isa Mutlib, CEO at BAME Apprenticeship Alliance, highlights the key role that apprenticeships play in overcoming social mobility barriers, saying

"We already know the benefits of an apprenticeship programme as an alternative to traditional career routes. It’s then using apprenticeships as that vehicle to drive diversity in the workplace. But we must also remember apprenticeships are a driver of social mobility.

How? Well, this is where the five pillars of social mobility come in: opportunity, progression, skills, job security, money.

This needs to be linked to the attraction, recruitment strategies for recruiting diverse talent and for building a culture that allows for retention and progression in the workplace. Employers need to understand the areas they serve, and the many socio-economic challenges underrepresented talent face when finding work or when in work."

Isa Mutlib, CEO at BAME Apprenticeship Alliance

Apprentice recruitment

With the knowledge that apprenticeships are key to encouraging diversity, social mobility and democratisation of the workplace, we know that there are challenges to introducing the right candidates to your business and reaching that varied talent pool.

It’s clear from this government report that there’s a lack of awareness of apprenticeships in schools and beyond, with many apprenticeship positions being filled simply to meet recruitment quotas.

At Lifetime, we know how vital expert recruitment is to the success of your apprenticeship programmes - and growing your business and culture. Our dedicated recruitment team nurture and match nearly 5,000 apprentices each year to roles within a wide range of sectors and departments nationwide.

Our recruitment strategies are reviewed regularly, so we reach the right young people, at the right time. And it’s how we open up access to previously unattainable sectors.

We support your internal recruitment teams, helping find the most suitable candidates from all groups of society – and take the pressure off your business at the same time.


woman at desk

At Lifetime, we understand that apprenticeships are key to creating an open and varied work culture. We work across a number of sectors, delivering apprenticeships that open businesses up to a wealth of talent, and developing skills to drive success.

Developing a

diverse workforce

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