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Give our youth a chance

EQUALITY CAMPAIGNERS are calling for the government to take tougher action on firms after recent  statistics showed that almost 90 per cent of apprenticeships in England go to young white people between the ages of 16 and 24.

The research also found that few employers are making use of powers given to them under the Equality Act to tackle disadvantage experienced by young people from  black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.

RISEN

While the educational attainment of young BAME people has risen in recent years with more students excelling at GCSE and A-level and going on to university, this is not resulting in them getting jobs.

Recent figures from the Institute of Social and Economic Research have shown that BAME students are between five and 15 per cent less likely to be employed than their white British peers six months after graduation.

Jeremy Crook, chief executive of the Black Training and Enterprise
Group (BTEG), told The Voice: “Employers' interest in young BAME
people is low. It’s now time for the government to use its levers to drive change where there is significantly poor representation of black and Asian youngsters.”

The report from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which highlighted the race disparity in apprenticeships, is calling for employers to do more to tackle
the disadvantages faced by minorities in the workplace.

In examining trends across the whole country, the report also found that in 2017/18 just 1.9 per cent of apprentices were from a black African or Caribbean, Asian, mixed ethnic or other ethnic minority background in Scotland.

REFLECT

While there had been a fairly steady representation of ethnic minority apprentices in Wales – around three per cent since 2008 – the figure also did not reflect the diversity of the population.

In a bid to up the numbers of apprentices of all backgrounds, the government introduced the apprenticeship levy, a compulsory tax on employers to help fund development and delivery of apprenticeships.

However Crook, right, told The Voice: “We have been doing work in London around young black men in the labour market and trying to work with employers and it is really chal-
lenging.

“We have struggled to get 10 employers from the tech sector in a room to talk about young black men and recruitment which includes apprenticeships, and we are still trying to do that through an initiative
called Moving On Up.

“Research from the government’s own website where you can apply for apprenticeships has shown that in recent years 25 per cent of the applications online come from BAME individuals.

“Taking this into account I don’t think you can say that BAME young people have a lack of awareness about apprenticeships, it’s just that
their success rates are so low
when they do apply.

“So the focus must be on employer recruitment and who gets upskilled in the workplace via the levy.

“It’s time for more radical steps to be taken. Levy employers should incentivised to tackle race disparity in sectors where representation is low such as engineering and construction.

“Any intermediaries that place individuals into apprenticeships such as employment agencies and who receive government funding should be given stretching race equality
targets annually.”

Crook continued: “It’s clear that our young people are over-represented in sectors that offer low pay or fewer opportunities, such as the care sector, for example.

“So we need to unpack where the greatest challenges are in those sectors and set targets for those sectors and divert more energy
in terms of government effort and work with those employers and intermediaries to make sure we are getting numbers up so that the population size of the BAME community in the UK is reflected.”

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive at the EHRC, said: “We need a level playing field in the workplace for women, for disabled people and for ethnic minorities.

“If we can do this at the point of entry to the labour market, we will take giant steps towards closing pay gaps and eliminate once and for all the outdated idea that certain kinds of people ought to be doing certain kinds of jobs.

Apprenticeships offer a great opportunity for individuals by giving them paid employment, on-the-job training and qualifications.”

The EHRC is calling for employers to make greater use of positive action in the workplace, taking steps to help or encourage certain groups of people who are disadvantaged to access work or training.

Positive action is lawful under the 2010 Equality Act, but the research identified a number of reasons for its limited use, including a lack of confidence to implement effective

measures and a fear of legal liability when the measure was used.

Hilsenrath said: “Employers need to take a confident and proactive approach if they are really going to make a difference here.

“Too often they are hesitant about using positive action because they’re worried about inadvertently discriminating against others.

“When used correctly, positive action is a powerful way for employers to address skills shortages and foster inclusive and diverse working environments that allow everyone  to reach their full potential.”

To improve the numbers of BAME apprentices, the EHRC says that employers should monitor recruitment, retention and progression by ethnicity, disability and gender.

It’s an approach backed by Sandra Kerr, national campaign director for the charity Business in the Community’s Race Equality campaign.

She told The Voice: “The power of tracking each stage is that you can see at which stage there is a drop-off in terms of BAME apprentices being hired.

“Is it that they’re not attracting diverse people? Or if they are attracting them, maybe they’re not getting through the selection process. If they get through the selection process, then it could be the interview process that’s the problem.

“If it’s not the interview then it could be the method of assessment that is being used.

“Once you locate where your challenge is then you can design interventions to tackle it.

“For example, if BAME apprentices are not getting through at the interview stage.

“We believe that interview panels should have people from minority ethnic backgrounds involved in the interview process.

“We know from our own research that employers who do that increase the diversity of their selection."

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