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New report reveals the racial disparity in the take up of apprenticeships

When BTEG embarked on a survey of young people at the end of 2020, one of its worrying findings was the lack of engagement with apprenticeship schemes. Following on from that survey we have dug a little deeper to produce this report Ethnic Minority Young People and Apprenticeships in England.


Ethnic minority people are far less likely than White people to have done an apprenticeship. But the lower participation in apprenticeships is not due to lack of interest.

In the BTEG 2021 Survey of Ethnic Minority Young People, 75% considered that an apprenticeship was a good route to the career they want, but not all were aware of where to find information about apprenticeships and most are not engaged by government awareness campaigns or agencies.

BTEG has long argued that the reasons for ethnic minority under-representation on apprenticeships do not primarily lie with lack of awareness among young people, or a reluctance from parents for their children to take the vocational rather than academic route to employment. There is a mis-match between the geographic regions where Black, Asian and Mixed ethnicity young people live, and the regions where apprenticeship places are available.  Apprenticeship places are lowest in the geographic areas, like London, where young ethnic minority populations are highest.


From 2010/11 to 2014/15 (the last year for which data are available) ethnic minorities made up between one fifth and one quarter of apprenticeship applications but only one tenth of apprenticeship starts.

Over the period 2017 - 2020, 9% of White males reported that they had completed an apprenticeship, compared with 3% of Black or Asian males and just 1% of Asian females.

Over the period 2019/20 Black, Asian and Mixed ethnicity apprentices represented 13% of starts but only 6% of starts in construction, planning and built environment, and 7% of starts in engineering apprenticeships.

In the period 2019 – 2020 Black, Asian and Mixed ethnicity apprentices were over-represented in information and communication technology, where they made up 18% of apprenticeship starts.


1. The government should lead action with employers to tackle the continued under-representation of ethnic minority young people on apprenticeships in higher value sectors such as construction and engineering.

2. A renewed drive is needed to create more apprenticeships in higher value sectors in London, along with pilot initiatives to test ways of supporting young Londoners to take up apprenticeship opportunities in high value sectors in other regions.

3. In order that disparities in apprenticeship application success rates can be tracked, the government should require all employers with 50+ employees to monitor and publish information about apprenticeship applications and appointments by age, gender and ethnicity.

4. A national review of take up of Jobcentre Plus services by ethnic minority young people is urgently needed, with action to address barriers deterring some communities from accessing employment support and opportunities only available through Jobcentre Plus.

5. The government should publish data on degree-level apprenticeships, with breakdowns in application, start and completion rates by gender, age and ethnicity.

Jeremy Crook OBE, Chief Executive of BTEG says: 

The Government needs to explain why ethnic minorities are over-represented in apprenticeships such as ICT and health but disturbingly and persistently underrepresented in sectors such construction and engineering. Leaving ethnic minority access to apprenticeships solely to employers has not worked. Concerted action is necessary to remove the systemic ethnic bias in the labour market.

BTEG has produced an employer recruitment toolkit to help improve employer practices and many employers welcome such tools but very few are prepared to implement them in practice. It is time for government to use its levers and require employers to show they mean business.

Undertaking ethnicity data recruitment monitoring should be mandatory for employers offering apprenticeships. It is unacceptable that only 7% of the 16 to18-year old young people starting an apprenticeship in this country are from ethnic minority backgrounds.

The full report is available to view here



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