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Apprenticeships for all: embracing diversity and inclusion to empower every learner

It's a common misconception that apprenticeships and work-based training are a new phenomenon. However, the roots of apprenticeships trace back centuries, with significant developments occurring as early as the 12th century and gaining momentum with the Artifices Act of 1563.

Yet, it was in the 19th century – coinciding with the formation of NCFE in 1848 – during which apprenticeships and vocational studies truly began to transform lives.

In fact, history reveals that apprenticeships have long served as a vehicle for supporting the less fortunate. Initiatives like the Parish Apprenticeship Programme in the 17th century demonstrated a commitment to aiding orphaned and economically disadvantaged individuals. Today, apprenticeships remain key to unlocking social mobility.

Empowering through inclusivity

As the Multicultural Apprenticeship Ambassador and Enterprise Ambassador for Pathway Group, I advocate for an inclusivity which incorporates race, gender and sexuality, but also, geography and social class – and, often, the intersectionality of these factors.

The challenges faced by these underrepresented groups are multifaceted, hindering their access to education, training, and employment opportunities. From inadequate workspace to lack of resources during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, these barriers disproportionately affect marginalised individuals. It's essential to recognise that not everyone starts with the same resources or privileges.

Apprenticeships have repeatedly answered the call to address these challenges. They provide more than just hands-on experience; they equip individuals with valuable skills, qualifications, and, most importantly, confidence and empowerment.

The transformative power of apprenticeships

Allow me to share a few stories from individuals whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, to illustrate to you the transformative power that apprenticeships can offer individuals.

Tracy, a former council employee working in an admin role, defied societal expectations by pursuing her dream career of being an electrician through an apprenticeship. Despite family and care responsibilities, Tracy became inspired after meeting a young girl who had completed an electrician’s apprenticeship and with her determination and support of her training provider, succeeded.

Haider Ali, who grew up in a deprived area of Derby, found his path to success through an accounting apprenticeship after university proved financially untenable for him. Overcoming these constraints and societal pressures, Haider's resilience and dedication provided a pathway for him to become a qualified accountant.

Despite being born with a visual impairment, Kristina Williams never let her disability get in her way and instead, completed a leadership apprenticeship with support from her training provider. Through online resources and tailored assistance, Kristina shattered barriers and forged a path to career advancement – all whilst highlighting how minor learning adjustments can make a difference to the learning experience for individuals with disabilities.

Finally, Shamila Khalid, who excelled through her studies and got a place at Birmingham University to study medicine, soon dropped out after realising becoming a medical professional was not her dream, but that of her parents. She discovered her true passion for accountancy through an apprenticeship after getting a job as a receptionist at a local accountancy firm, proving that it's never too late to change course.

A true catalyst for social mobility

These narratives underscore the notion that apprenticeships offer not just a job, but a better job and a career. They serve as a catalyst for social mobility, enabling individuals to break free from cycles of poverty and inequality. By providing opportunities for fully funded degrees and supporting re-entry into the workforce, apprenticeships empower individuals to achieve their aspirations.

Furthermore, an apprenticeship doesn't just change the life of the individual undertaking the programme, it changes the life of everyone around them – and it's very important that we look at how it impacts their family and future generations together.

Building a more equitable future, together

However, our work is far from complete. Collaboration between educational institutions, employers, and policymakers is crucial to ensuring equitable access to opportunities. We must strive for diverse and inclusive leadership that reflects our customer base and fosters relatability and representation. As the saying goes, "You cannot be what you cannot see."

Let's build a future where diversity is not merely a goal but a reality, where everyone has the chance to unlock their full potential and contribute to the betterment of our shared world. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to NCFE for their unwavering support in widening participation and championing initiatives like the Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards.

As we look ahead to the next 175 years, let us continue to inspire through collective action, sculpting a future where every individual's potential is recognised and nurtured.

 

Channel website: https://www.ncfe.org.uk/

Original article link: https://www.ncfe.org.uk/all-articles/apprenticeships-for-all-embracing-diversity-and-inclusion/

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