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Apprenticeships key to social mobility, HR leaders say

Nearly all HR and learning and development leaders feel that social mobility is important to their organisation

There is a gap between HR leaders who see the potential of apprenticeships for social mobility (85%) and those who plan to use them in the next 12 months (65%), according to a study from training company Corndel.

James Kelly, co-founder Corndel, said: “Social mobility in the UK is tragically going backwards. High-quality education, like professional apprenticeships, changes lives and can have a profound effect on social mobility.”

Over a quarter (27%) of HR leaders said they will specifically incorporate degree apprenticeships into their recruitment strategy in the future, with 62% saying they will use workplace training to improve social mobility.

In the chancellor’s Autumn Statement, Jeremy Hunt announced plans for a £50 million pilot to promote apprenticeship training in engineering and other growth sectors, but no policy details have yet been released.

The minimum hourly wage for apprentices will also see a 21% increase from April 2024, meaning minimum hourly pay will rise from £5.28 to £6.40.

Read more: Autumn Statement: What HR needs to know

Kelly said Corndel had seen tangible benefits from apprenticeships in its own organisation.

Of the learners who completed the Corndel Level 3 apprenticeship in management, 29% received a pay rise, 53% were trusted with more responsibilities and 63% felt more prepared to advance in their careers

Kelly said: “Apprenticeships offer a chance for people to enhance their skills and instil the confidence needed to change their life circumstances, at all levels of their career.

“With degree apprenticeship routes, learners can gain a professional degree alongside gaining workplace experience, without accruing student debt. Employers can not only contribute to the professional development of their workforce but also actively participate in addressing social mobility.”

Paul Devoy, CEO of workplace accreditor Investors in People, said apprenticeships would also help reduce skills gaps.

He said: “I have an 18-year-old son who recently left school and I hear lots of stories about how difficult it is to find an apprenticeship. I also hear from employers the difficulty they have in attracting and recruiting young people to their industry.

“Something is wrong in how the labour market functions as neither the needs of the young person nor the employer is being met.

“The bottom line is that more employers need to grow their own talent and invest in running high-quality apprenticeship programmes. Until we get that shift in approach the decades of skills gaps and shortages and people not fulfilling their potential will persist at a great cost to us all.”

Read more: Apprenticeships have plummeted since levy introduced

Nearly all HR and learning and development leaders feel that social mobility is important to their organisation (92%).

However, 38% of organisations do not currently have a way of measuring social mobility in their business.

Kelly said the key to effective measurement is thorough data collection.

He said: “Data on staff socioeconomic backgrounds should be collected and used to identify areas where there is underrepresentation, as well as measuring the progression of people from different socioeconomic backgrounds through the organisation.

“This data can be used to identify barriers to progression and develop targeted interventions, as well as comparing the socioeconomic background of employees to the socioeconomic background of the local population to assess the diversity of the workforce relative to the local community.”