Apprentices from lower socio-economic backgrounds are not getting the same opportunities as their middle-class peers, the Social Mobility Commission has suggested.
As FEWeek reports, in its State of the Nation report for 2021, the commission took exception with the notion among employers and policymakers that apprenticeships are an ‘incontestable social mobility tool helping the disadvantaged.’
The independent advisory, non-departmental public body commented: ‘Poorer apprentices were less likely to get onto schemes and were more likely to be clustered in lower returning and lower-level apprenticeships than their peers from higher socio-economic backgrounds.’
The report added that disadvantaged apprentices face gaps at ‘literally every stage of the system.’ The COVID-19 outbreak has only made matters worse due to those apprentices having been more likely to work in sectors which saw apprenticeship declines – e.g., hospitality.
The pandemic has also exacerbated the pre-existing trend towards higher apprenticeships, with higher apprenticeships rising from 18% of starts from August to January in 2018-19 to 32% in the same period in 2020-21.
As the report notes, learners from low socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to be on these courses.
In its advice on how to address these disparities, the commission informed the government to use the Apprenticeship Levy to incentivise employers to provide more traineeships and level 2 to 4 apprenticeships:
‘The levy should no longer be used as an alternative route for degree qualifications for more privileged staff,’ the report concludes.
Also recommended for further education in the report is a ‘student premium’ for those aged 16 to 19, which would mirror the pupil premium currently used in schools.
In response to the critical report, a Department for Education spokesperson pointed out how it has increased incentive payments to £3,000 for newly recruited apprentices.
“We continue to pay additional funding to employers and training providers to support them to take on young apprentices, apprentices with learning difficulties and disabilities, and care leavers,” they added.