The Department for Education launched its Five Cities Project to boost the diversity of the people admitted to the National Apprenticeship Service.
The service will be working with the mayors of London, Leicester, Bristol, Greater Manchester and Birmingham to help apprenticeship networks in their areas represent a larger number of people from different ethnicities.
Justine Greening, the former education secretary, had talked about increasing minority representation amongst apprentices; however, it was felt that this was a public stance that had been adopted with little tangible effort to back it up. The city leaders who are cooperating on this initiative are Sadiq Khan (London), Andy Street (West Midlands), Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester), Peter Soulsby (Leicester) and Marvin Rees (Bristol).
Mr Burnham hopes to raise BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) apprenticeship participation by 16 per cent. He says he wants Greater Manchester to be known as a place that is fair, inclusive and represents equality, where all people – no matter where they come from or what their background – can take advantage of opportunities to obtain work and build a life of which they are proud. He added that he was proud Greater Manchester was taking part in a pilot programme that would celebrate diversity in his city and the region surrounding it.
The Department for Education said that people from BAME and deprived backgrounds often faced a number of barriers when attempting to secure an apprenticeship and that city mayors could help to dismantle these barriers. Part of the mayors’ efforts will be concentrated on highlighting a recruitment drive for more apprentices at higher and degree levels; in addition, the Five Cities Project will demonstrate the government’s desire to acknowledge and promote good education practices so that they can be adopted more frequently and made available to as many people as possible. National companies supporting the Five Cities Project include Rolls Royce, the BBC and B&Q.
Anne Milton, the minister for skills, initiated the project by communicating with the five mayors in August last year. She said the project had been given terrific support and she was incredibly pleased with how enthusiastic people were about it. She added that it was extremely rewarding to be working on an enterprise that would enable more people to obtain the apprenticeships they wanted and subsequently enjoy the great career benefits an apprenticeship can deliver.
The Five Cities Project is also supported by the Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network, which comprises around 30 different employers. This group acts to encourage other companies to spread the best ways of widening diversity in apprenticeships.
BAME people comprise 18 per cent of the UK population. Last November data revealed that only eight per cent of apprentices in England were BAME; however, across the rest of further education, BAME representation was 23 per cent. A representative of the National Apprenticeship Service said it was imperative that barriers to BAME people were removed to support all talented applicants in the country.
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