Since The Genie Programme opened for applications last month, I’ve been lucky enough to have many open, honest conversations with some of the country’s biggest, boldest and most progressive apprenticeship employers about the programme.
We’ve talked about the big issues faced by diverse and disadvantaged people seeking apprenticeships, about organisational and personal priorities in addressing those issues, and about why those employers want to take part in the programme.
There are as many different ‘whys’ as there have been conversations, but I wanted to share four that have come up time and time again.
1. The Social Mobility Commission’s ‘Apprenticeships and social mobility: fulfilling potential’ report
A lot of people were (rightly) shocked by the Social Mobility Commission report earlier this year that highlighted apprenticeships as “one of the few indisputably effective tools of social mobility currently available to the government”, but showed how they’re failing to deliver on that potential. Things need to change, and many apprenticeships professionals now see themselves as having an important role to play in driving that change.
2. Trying to do it all and/or not knowing where to start
Everyone we speak to can see that something needs to change. However, many employers have shared that they feel social mobility bring such a complex, sprawling and sensitive set of challenges, they need to develop the right in-house skills and expertise to tackle it properly. As Jodi Fair from the Solent Apprenticeship Hub told me,
“Our employers are conscious of wanting to ensure that their organisations are fair and equally accessible to all – however, they are worried about doing the wrong thing and so, in the past, the tendency has been to do nothing at all”.
The Genie Programme gives people a starting point – a practical, structured way into this agenda as it relates to their work. People we’ve spoken to love that the programme doesn’t try to fix the world, or even their whole organisation – instead it helps them find specific ways to build curiosity and confidence, and to make a direct difference as an apprenticeships/early careers professional.
3. The unique challenges and impact of 2020
Although many of the challenges addressed by the social mobility, diversity and inclusion agenda are long-standing, 2020 has been a uniquely challenging year with social and economic challenges that all the data shows will disproportionately impact the most deprived and marginalised individuals. Longstanding social and economic gaps will be been widened, access gaps and other disparities magnified. Many apprenticeship employers want to do whatever they can to mitigate that impact and to offer opportunities to those who need them most.
4. Lack of confidence in handling sensitive issues
The last thing that keeps coming up in conversations with employers is a lack of confidence when addressing sensitive issues with confidence. The Genie Programme will bring a unique blend of specialist speakers and round tables with individuals who have direct ‘lived experience’ of the challenges that we are trying to address.
Education is the most important tool in learning to recognise and remove barriers for diverse and disadvantaged groups, and this early stage of the programme could just as easily be called ‘Listen and Learn’. By hearing from a wide range of people with first-hand experience of key issues, participants will learn how to address them seriously, sincerely and with real sensitivity in their work.
Depending on your priorities and targets in this area, there may be countless other reasons why The Genie Programme is right for your organisation – I’d love to get a call booked in to talk you about some of them if you’re interested.
Addressing this agenda isn’t always easy. If it was, we’d all just sign a petition or buy a campaign badge once a year. There wouldn’t be any need for The Genie Programme.
But something not being easy doesn’t mean that it has to be daunting. The Genie Programme provides a structured route to open and honest engagement with challenging issues, to recognition of organisational gaps in knowledge, and to quantifiable, strategically motivated suggestions for how to improve attraction, recruitment and progression processes for diverse and disadvantaged talent.
If that sounds exciting, it’s because it is. At least we think so – and many of the best apprenticeship employers in the country agree with us.
If you want to hear more about the programme I’d love to speak to you – register your interest to learn more, email me directly on Genie@AmazingApprenticeships.com or call 07840 164 752. Let’s talk soon.