3 ways to support socially diverse apprentices

Feb 21, 2023 | Diversity

Building social mobility into apprenticeships requires a fundamentally different approach to engaging and developing young talent, explains Patrick Philpott, founder of Visionpath.

One of the big challenges for young people starting their careers is getting the foundation of knowledge that’s crucial to get by in the world of work. This could be industry- or employer-specific understanding, everyday workplace skills and behaviour, or simply recognising what a professional environment looks and feels like.

At ISE’s Delivering Apprenticeships Conference I spoke alongside Visionpath’s partners, Ofcom, about the best ways businesses can create a level playing field for socially diverse talent entering the workforce. If you missed the event, you can read 5 takeaways.

The reality is that young people from socially diverse backgrounds have an even tougher time making the transition from education to employment.

Without the advantage of professional parents or industry ‘ins’ to offer invaluable insight, the opportunities for work experience prior to landing their first real role, or even the stability and confidence that might help them settle into a new environment quicker, it can be an overwhelming experience.

Businesses looking to recruit apprentices from disadvantaged backgrounds must be prepared to take new hires on a journey from grassroots to growth.

Doing so will undoubtedly unlock a wealth of untapped talent that helps future-proof your business and give you a competitive edge; but it will also help move the dial on social equality and make your business an example to follow in your industry.

So, how can you set socially diverse apprentices up for success?


1. Communicate a clear vision

When combining ED&I objectives with business-critical resourcing, there can be a struggle between (and even within) departments over which is prioritised. This is often because of the additional time, resource and energy investment for social equality initiatives to succeed.

So the first – and most crucial – step in a successful social mobility-focused apprentice strategy is to get everyone on board internally. From day one, bring all key stakeholders on the journey with you by consistently communicating a clear vision everyone can get behind.


2. Plot a journey of discovery and development

Often the development of early talent begins on the day they join your business, but this is a missed opportunity.

One of the many benefits of hiring apprentices is the long lead time between their first interaction with your business, to the day they walk through your office door – a period that’s ripe for enrichment.

When hiring socially diverse school-leavers, this time is all the more valuable. By thinking of the apprentice hiring process – from outreach to onboarding – as a journey of discovery and development, you can begin to shape apprentices’ skills, experience and confidence in a way that benefits both them and your business.

For example, you could make outreach activity more workshop-based, rethink assessment centres so they’re more experiential or even introduce a pipeline development phase to upskill future talent and prepare them to add value from day one.


3. Support line managers and teammates

You know the saying, ‘it takes a village’? That applies to apprentices, too. No amount of preparation can make up for the ongoing support and understanding of managers and teammates.

As a minimum, train managers to adopt a coaching approach and skills that supports apprentices’ growth and development.

Organise group check-ins for apprentices to build a support community and help them reflect on their challenges and progress.

And don’t forget the all-important pastoral care. This is especially crucial for socially diverse young people, who may well have a lot going on in their world that could impact their happiness and performance at work.

Building social mobility into apprenticeships requires a fundamentally different approach to engaging and developing young talent, but the results are worth it.

Getting true buy-in of your business before you even begin, using every opportunity to grow skills and experience of apprentices as you go along, and creating a supportive environment for everyone to thrive will equip your business for the future, with true diversity in your talent pipeline.


You may also be interested in

How to integrate students from lower socio-economic backgrounds

5 takeaways from ISE Delivering Apprenticeships Conference 2023

Three steps to driving genuine diversity

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