CMI calls for greater diversity and gender parity in apprenticeships

Employers are being encouraged to start offering degree-level apprenticeships to improve gender diversity.

Degree-level apprenticeships will be key to filling ‘missing middle’ of women in management, with 1.5 million more needed by 2024 to achieve gender parity.

At the start of National Apprenticeship 2017, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) is calling on employers to start higher-level apprentices as a route to promoting gender diversity in their workforces.

CMI’s strategy director Petra Wilton says, ‘It’s good to be celebrating International Women’s Day during National Apprenticeship Week this year, given apprenticeships are playing a significant role in improving gender diversity in the workplace.

‘Our research shows that nearly half of our new degree-level chartered manager apprenticeships are started by women, while government data shows that 53 per cent of all apprenticeships have been taken up by women. This is not a new phenomenon, more women than men have started apprenticeships every year since 2010/11.

‘To achieve gender balance by 2024, the UK will need an additional 1.5 million women managers. Apprentices have a leading role to play by supporting women at all stages of their careers to progress through management. From those starting out in the world of work to those looking to push on in their careers, management and leadership apprenticeships are helping to equip women with the skills needed to progress and to help fill the ‘Missing Middle’ creating the talent pipeline to the top.’

Wilton adds, ‘However, with only 13 per cent of employers aware of the new Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship, far more needs to be done to encourage businesses to ensure an inclusive, diverse and more productive talent pipeline. This is particularly important in sectors like STEM that are struggling to attract female professionals.’

Apprenticeship Levy

With the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April 2017, there is an opportunity for apprenticeships to play a critical role in developing new and existing talent in the workforce.

Minister for apprenticeships and skills, Robert Halfon, says, ‘It is essential that people can get on the ladder of opportunity and get on in the world of work, regardless of how old they are or their background.

‘It’s fantastic that 53 per cent of apprenticeships started are by women but we’re not stopping there. We have been working hard to make sure that employers take on apprentices with disabilities, from BAME backgrounds and women in sectors they are under-represented. Our new Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network, which is made up of 23 employers, will also make sure apprenticeships can work for as many people as possible.’

The likes of the latest breed of trailblazer degree-level apprenticeships developed by employer-led groups are now opening up new opportunities.

On 6 March, the CMI is hosting an event to discuss the new trailblazer apprenticeships and their potential to support women’s progression in management.

At the event, women apprentices studying on the new degree apprenticeships at companies including BT, Atkins, Nestle and IBM will be sharing their experiences. Speakers include Sue Husband,
director of the Skills Funding Agency, who has herself started a Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship via Open University.

Commenting, Sue Husband says, ‘I’m delighted to be celebrating the role of apprenticeships in supporting women’s career progression during National Apprenticeship Week. Too many women at the outset of their careers, or those returning from family commitments, struggle to find appropriate work-based learning opportunities.

‘Apprenticeships provide progression through to higher level skills, and this is raising aspirations from a much wider talent pool. I’m particularly proud to be a role model in continuing my own professional development by undertaking the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship with Open University.’

Further reading on apprenticeships

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the