More needs to be done to attract and recruit more disabled apprentices through the government’s apprenticeship programmes. This is the conclusion of The Open University, following the Department for Education’s latest apprenticeships statistics data, which shows the number of people starting apprenticeships in England with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is at 12.3 per cent. A major survey of over 700 employers in England also shows employers feel ‘unequipped’ to provide equal opportunities to people with declared disabilities. Close to half of organisations (47 per cent) believe their companies could do with more internal support to help apprentices or entry-level graduates with declared disabilities
The survey forms part of the OU’s new ‘Access to Apprenticeships’ report. Key decision makers showed that whilst over a third of employers surveyed (38 per cent) had proactively recruited individuals with disabilities over the past three years, many want further assistance in doing so, and more information on how to support the apprentice.
The survey unearthed a widespread lack of understanding of the support available to assist the recruitment of apprentices and graduates with declared disabilities. Almost a quarter of employers (24 per cent) face challenges in financing the additional support required to train and develop individuals with a disability and over a quarter of decision makers (29 per cent) report they don’t have the training to enable them to better support employees with declared disabilities.
“Support is available from both the UK government and learning providers to enable businesses to hire and support apprentices with declared disabilities,” said Laura Burley, Apprenticeships Ambassador at The Open University responded to the findings. “Our report shows that a lack of understanding of the resources available creates a disconnect and as a result, there is a danger it reduces the opportunities that are opened up to candidates with declared disabilities.
“At The Open University, we are committed to ensuring that education is ‘open to all’ and apprentices and students with declared disabilities have access to equal opportunities. The OU has over 24,000 students with a declared disability, which is over half of the UK’s disabled part-time undergraduate student population.
“We know that employers have a strong appetite to grow the number of apprentices they hire in the future and also want to reap the benefits of a diverse workforce and hire more apprentices with disabilities so today we are calling on the UK government to help make clear the support that’s available for employers, and examine how the apprenticeship levy in England could be used to streamline the process and widen access to the workplace for apprentices with declared disabilities,” she concluded.
Further findings from the employer survey in England, along with solutions to the issues can be found in The Open University’s new report Access to Apprenticeships.