#NAW2018: BAME groups are steering clear of apprenticeships in Greater Manchester


As more data becomes available to us, the more we’re beginning to understand that a lower number of people from BAME backgrounds are applying for apprenticeships. Which poses the question ‘why?’ And ‘what can be done about it?’ Here, Cllr Sean Astee shares his thoughts.

“Greater Manchester has a long and proud history of striving for fairness, equality and inclusion – and in the past month we’ve been reminded of the important role that Greater Manchester and some great Mancunians played in the suffrage movement.

That spirit of fairness and equality of opportunity lives on today.

However, demographic factors such as gender, ethnic background, age and economic circumstances can have an impact on people getting the best opportunities as they grow up, get on and grow old.

Education and skills are great ways to help level that playing field and give everyone the tools they need, whether that’s in high quality technical education and training such as an apprenticeship, or via an academic route.

Apprenticeships are extremely accessible ways for people to learn. There is no age limit and they can be done at any point during working life.

Yet across our city-region and the country there is a much lower proportion of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds taking apprenticeships compared to the population as a whole. This has been the case for a number of years and we believe it’s time to change this in Greater Manchester.

Earlier this month I attended the launch of the ‘Five Cities Project’, where Anne Milton, Minister for Skills & Apprenticeships, announced a new pilot scheme which aims to increase the number of people from BAME backgrounds taking on apprenticeships. A group of Greater Manchester apprentices also attended along with a range of large, local employers, and I’m proud that our city-region is part of a new project which will celebrate our diversity.

This pilot will help to ensure that Greater Manchester’s apprentices reflect the diversity of the communities in which we live. Our employers, alongside our communities, will play a crucial part in how the pilot develops and will help achieve the following objectives:

  • Look into why people from BAME backgrounds are under-represented in apprenticeships and how this compares to other career options
  • Make sure barriers are removed so all communities can participate
  • Consider how to improve recruitment processes so that people from BAME backgrounds receive the same opportunities as others

When this information is gathered we will be able to make an informed decision on how to improve life for people across Greater Manchester. Some actions may take longer to implement as we challenge mind-sets, but it is a challenge we accept. In the short term, busting myths and providing role models will go a long way to show the opportunities apprenticeships provide.

At the project launch, I was privileged to meet a number of Greater Manchester apprentices who are fantastic examples of the role models that I believe can make a difference in this pilot.

One of those apprentices was Mahmuda Khanom, a level 5 Leadership and Management Apprentice at Oldham Borough Council. Alongside being an apprentice, Mahmuda is working in a role which supports local residents in improving their skills and securing employment, including through apprenticeships.

Mahmuda said that apprenticeships are not always the first option when people from BAME communities are considering going into further or higher education or work.

Her hope is that the pilot in Greater Manchester will emphasise that apprenticeships offer an attractive option for career development and for acquiring what she calls ‘real life work-based skills’.

She said: “The general route considered for higher education qualifications and pathways to entering the labour market is usually a traditional degree, which arguably holds significant status within BAME communities. As much as I loved the years I spent as an undergraduate and how proud I am of my academic achievements, there is a stark difference between the skills acquired in an apprenticeship and in a degree.”

I want Greater Manchester to be a place where everyone has the best opportunities in life as they grow up, get on and grow old, whatever their circumstances, background or aspirations. We are making moves to achieve this.”

More National Apprenticeship Week stories:

Monday, 5 March 2018

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#NAW2018: BAME groups are steering clear of apprenticeships in Greater Manchester