Black and minority ethnic apprentice numbers are dramatically low

The number of black and minority ethnic (BME) people taking up apprenticeships is dramatically low, new research has revealed.

Less than 7% of apprentices are of BME origin, with participation especially low among Indian, black African and Chinese communities, according to a review of vocational qualifications by education foundation Edge.

The study also found that BME apprentices are particularly under-represented in traditional craft-based sectors, and in some of the more modern frameworks, such as customer service and hospitality. Only four apprenticeship programmes, covering sporting, community justice and IT, had 10% or more BME apprentices.

The news comes as the government urged employers to treble the number of apprenticeships on offer to try and eradicate the UK’s skills shortage.

A spokesman for Edge told Personnel Today: “One of the reasons is that a lot of these [minority] groups live in London, where apprenticeships are in short supply.”

Last week, skills minister David Lammy set up a London taskforce to improve the number of apprenticeships on offer in the capital. London saw only 11,090 apprentices start in 2006-07, compared to 32,210 in the North-West, a region with a similar-sized population.

Completion of apprenticeships was also relatively low among the BME group, the Edge survey found. Just one person of Pakistani, Indian, black African, black Caribbean and Chinese ethnicity respectively completed a Construction Advanced Apprenticeship in England in 2006-07, compared to more than 2,400 white Britons.

However, of the total number of vocational qualifications available, BME participation was 17% – higher than the percentage of BME groups living in the UK – according to the review.

The study was published today to coincide with the nation’s first ever Vocational Qualifications Day, to celebrate the number of people taking up vocational learning rather than theory-based degrees.

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