Employment organisations call for part-time apprenticeships

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 A new report from Young Women’s Trust, Trust for London, flexibility experts Timewise and Learning and the Work Institute reveals that potentially thousands of people are missing out on the opportunity to train because of a lack of part-time apprenticeship opportunities.

Just one in ten apprentices are contracted for less than 30 hours per week, leaving the training out of reach for many who are unable to work full-time – particularly women, people with caring responsibilities, disabled people and young people leaving the care system. Instead, these groups often find themselves in low-skilled work with little opportunity to progress, or out of work altogether.

Potential apprentices spoke of the frustration of finding apprenticeships that they could fit around caring responsibilities and their health needs.

Existing reports show that opportunities are particularly lacking for women trying to enter male-dominated sectors like engineering, IT and construction. Women instead tend to go into lower-paid sectors, such as care and beauty, contributing to an apprentice gender pay gap of eight per cent – or more than £1,000 a year. They often receive less training during their apprenticeship and are less likely to get a job after. Supporting more women into apprenticeships would benefit businesses that are experiencing skills shortages – particularly in areas like construction and engineering.  

The report shows that employers see huge potential for part-time apprenticeships to increase diversity. Polling done by YouGov for Young Women’s Trust showed that more than half of employers (54 per cent) would be willing to offer part-time apprenticeships, including 65 per cent of those in the public sector.

Despite these findings and some excellent examples of employers making part-time apprenticeships work, many employers wrongly continue to believe there is no demand or that part-time apprenticeships would be difficult to administer. Meanwhile, potential apprentices found that resources such as the Government’s ‘Find an Apprenticeship’ service did not allow them to search for part-time apprenticeships, meaning many thought they were simply not available.

The organisations behind the research now hope to develop and test a model of part-time apprenticeships that will benefit both businesses that are experiencing skills shortages and those looking to get back into work or progress their careers on a part time basis. 

Young Women’s Trust chief executive, Dr Carole Easton said:“The growing skills shortage in sectors like construction and engineering is all the more reason to support more young women into relevant apprenticeships. But Young Women’s Trust has found that young women across the country are shut out of apprenticeships due to a lack of flexible working. 

Supporting young women into these apprenticeships benefits women, businesses and the economy. We need urgent action. Much greater provision of part-time and flexible apprenticeships would help young mothers and carers in particular, who often have to balance care with work.” 

Timewise Joint CEO, Emma Stewart, said: “Our new report today highlights a fundamental problem when it comes to making more apprenticeships accessible: they are designed based on a full-time, nine to five basis. However, with almost nine in 10 of the UK’s full-time workforce either currently working flexibly, or wanting to, addressing how more apprenticeships can be available on a part-time and flexible basis is crucial.  

"Transform how apprenticeships are designed, and there is real potential to unlock access to skills, better pay and career progression for the millions who need to fit both earning AND learning with other life needs. And for employers, opening-up more part-time and flexible apprenticeships will also help create more diverse workplaces, reduce gender inequalities and tackle skills shortages.” 

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive at Learning and Work Institute, said, “Apprenticeships are a great way for people to combine earning and learning, and for employers to meet their skills needs. But Learning and Work Institute has found that lack of flexible apprenticeship opportunities are preventing people from taking up apprenticeships and limiting employers' talent pool.

“Yet this is not down to lack of interest from employers or individuals. We need a major drive from government and employers to translate this interest into action. Flexible working is well established in many employers and sectors, and part-time learning is commonplace. We need to make flexible apprenticeships much more business as usual too.” 

Bharat Mehta, Chief Executive at Trust for London, said: “Wasting the talents of so many people because of a lack of part-time apprentices does not make sense. We need more employers to follow the lead of those forward-thinking businesses that are already reaping the rewards of having access to a wider talent pool as a result of offering more flexible options for apprentices.” 

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.
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