VGC supports 5% Club recommendations to tackle ‘diversity deadlock’

VGC supports 5% Club recommendations to tackle ‘diversity deadlock’

We support The 5% Club ‘Breaking the Deadlock’ report in calls for urgent action to drive a more diverse and inclusive uptake of earn and learn placements.

The report notes that business heads, industry sectors and the government need to be involved in ensuring a diverse talent pipeline. It offers tips to help companies offering earn and learn opportunities to attract, identify and retain candidates from every background. This is critical for both a strong society and strong economy.

Hidden barriers

Despite research which proves that businesses with a diverse workforce consistently outperform those without, hidden barriers to diversity still exist in recruitment processes. Early career workforces remain imbalanced. Only 11.3% of apprenticeship starts are made by BAME applicants. And while women represent more than half of all apprentices (54%) , women represent only 8.1% of those in STEM. Just 10% of apprenticeship starts are by people with learning difficulties and / or disabilities.

‘Breaking the Deadlock’ involved consultation with members of The 5% Club including VGC Group. It provides recommendations for tackling the ‘diversity deadlock’ in the UK’s workforce, and lists three key drivers for change:

  1. Business heads must demonstrate an unequivocal lead. They must prioritise collecting diversity data which can be used to set targets and measure progress.
  2. Sectors must coordinate their approach to maximise impact. At present, a range of activities take place in a piecemeal fashion.
  3. The government must regulate appropriately, to speed up the pace of change while ensuring a level playing field.

Leo Quinn, chairman and founder of The 5% Club, and group chief executive of Balfour Beatty, expands: “The 5% Club stands strong in our belief that the diversity and inclusion deadlock can indeed be broken – and action must be taken immediately, given the skills gaps which exist across our economy. Businesses need to collect better data, think outside the box in how they recruit and ensure workplaces and business cultures are inclusive and welcoming to people from different backgrounds.

“The government must also play its part, using the levers it has available. It must provide balanced careers advice, educating teachers, young people and parents from all backgrounds, about the range of earn and learn opportunities available, as well as encouraging young people – especially girls – to study STEM subjects. The government must also use its role as a major procurer of goods and services to encourage greater emphasis on diversity among their own suppliers. If we can pull together in a strategic, co-ordinated way, we can deliver change and offer sustainable careers to a larger and more diversified cross-section of people.”

Apprenticeship levy

Ciara Pryce, VGC group services director, said: “The apprenticeship levy has had a huge impact on focusing companies to implement long term development plans for staff within the construction industry. However, the nature of construction projects means that not all trades are on projects long enough to complete an apprenticeship programme. These people may be further restricted from accessing training.

“We think that industry would benefit from more flexibility around how the apprenticeship levy can be spent. For instance if 20% of the overall levy was allocated for the provision of shorter accredited training courses, this would complement the overall skills development of the workforce for both short and long term staff. It would also allow companies to review recruits before committing them to long term apprenticeship development programmes and potentially equip people with the skills and qualifications they need to start ‘in work’ apprenticeships.”

Shaking up traditional diversity and inclusion approaches

Traditional recruitment and retention strategies are no longer fit for purpose in delivering the skilled, diverse workforce businesses need now and in the future. The 5% Club asked a selection of its members for their ‘top tips’ on how companies can look again at HR approaches for earn and learn.

  1. Introduce ‘blind CVs’. Removing details like names, gender, age, education, number of years of experience, and university or education provider names, will remove bias.
  2. Seek new ways of finding candidates. Target channels like specific social media, websites and career fairs which are likely to help increase diversity.
  3. Use unconscious bias training to make hiring managers aware of their own potential biases. This will help them to make decisions based on the suitability of the candidate for the role and company, rather than on snap judgements informed by stereotypes and ingrained beliefs.
  4. Reciprocal mentoring can give a new perspective and deeper understanding of the challenges faced by different groups. For example, a senior executive might be paired with a younger person, or someone might be paired with a person of a different gender or race.
  5. Ensure that the CEO and board are responsible for the diversity and inclusion strategy. This will shows how important it is in the business. Similarly, encouraging senior managers to ‘own’ diversity, speaking about it publicly and rewarding behaviours which reflect the diversity and inclusion ethos.

Diversity and inclusion conference

‘Breaking The Deadlock’ is published to coincide with The 5% Club’s conference on diversity and inclusion on 20 June at Heathrow’s Employment and Skills Academy. Swati Patel, our CSR manager, and Simon Clamp, learning and development manager, will represent VGC at the event. Speakers include:

  • Lady Cobham, CBE, Director General of The 5% Club
  • The Rt Hon. The Lord Blunkett, Chair of Heathrow Skills Task Force
  • Apprenticeship Diversity Champion Network
  • The Year of Engineering.

During the conference, members will discuss ways of addressing imbalances and how to impact diversity and inclusion within earn and learn in their own organisations.

The 5% Club is made up of 300 members from across sectors including finance, hospitality, construction and engineering. It is an employer-led organisation, which encourages employers to create as many earn and learn opportunities as possible. Members aspire to reach 5% of their workforce undertaking earn and learn within five years of joining.

Read The 5% Club’s ‘Breaking the Deadlock’ report and recommendations (link to pdf on The 5% Club website).

See our apprentice web page for information about VGC’s apprenticeship programme.