“Apprenticeships and Corporate Inclusion and Diversity strategies should go hand-in-hand” - Business Leader News

“Apprenticeships and Corporate Inclusion and Diversity strategies should go hand-in-hand”

In this guest article, Sarah Walton, Diageo’s Global Supply Chain and Procurement HR Director, outlines why apprenticeships should form an integral part of D&I strategies.

The United Kingdom faces a skills shortage. Millions of jobs – for many reasons – remain vacant as businesses struggle to recruit people with the right knowledge and expertise – including over ten thousand apprenticeship vacancies last year.

Apprenticeships are globally one of the best ways to upskill and recruit the next generation of workers and should be a key tool for any organisation seeking the best talent for a role. However, the reality is that those most likely to benefit from further training often cannot access those opportunities.

Research by CIPD shows that most funding for apprenticeship schemes in the UK is being used to train older, existing staff within businesses. Even among 16-to-18-year-olds, 90% of UK apprenticeship starts are White British, with young women considerably less likely than their male counterparts to be able to find suitable apprenticeship positions.

Apprenticeships should be one of the key solutions to the UK’s skills problem, but sadly many schemes are not fit for purpose.

It’s worth reflecting on what this could mean for a business, as a non-inclusive apprenticeship scheme will have negative impacts beyond just society. Fewer entry-level joiners from diverse backgrounds, whether it is women, ethnic minorities, or those from disadvantaged groups, means less varied thinking, less talent entering the business, and ultimately hindering the growth of future leaders. Committing to creating a diverse culture will help a business to grow, and those that do not risk being left behind.

Diageo believes that early-career and D&I programmes should be connected. Breaking down our own echo chambers is how we continue to perform and challenge ourselves. Not only does it allow us to grow a global workplace that reflects our local consumer bases and communities, but championing diversity at every level allows us to improve our consumer and employee brand, recruit and retain the best employees, and ultimately achieve better performance.

We want to change the narrative around our typically male-dominated industry, particularly across STEM and supply chain roles, and we know we can’t just take a top-down approach to diverse recruitment. Since 2006, the majority of our apprentices across our global supply chain have gone on to secure full-time roles with us upon completion of their scheme, and while we’re proud that our annual graduate intake now recruits 50% women, we’re striving to match this across all our apprenticeship, returnship, and scholarship programmes.

We know that if we want to achieve our ambitious targets of 50% representation of women in leadership roles and 45% from ethnically diverse backgrounds by 2030, we need diverse recruitment across all levels, and that starts with early-career, entry-level roles.

As another National Apprenticeship Week passes, all businesses will be looking to play their part in solving the UK’s skill shortages. We know that there is more work to be done, and we will continue to focus on our own global scheme first and foremost, but a national commitment to combining I&D and skills together is one way to begin approaching this problem.

At Diageo, we are up for the challenge and hope the wider business community is too.