Apprenticeships key for social mobility, but 1/3 of companies won’t use them in 2024

A new report has revealed that UK businesses are keen to improve social mobility, but often lack the means or knowledge to follow them through.


Workplace training provider Corndel surveyed 300 HR and Learning & Development decision makers for its Elevating Social Mobility Report and found that 85% of organisations believe apprenticeships are a key route for social mobility. Over a quarter of HR leaders said they will specifically incorporate degree apprenticeships into their recruitment strategy in the future, with 62% saying they will use workplace training to improve social mobility. Nearly all HR and Learning and Development leaders feel that social mobility is important to their organisation (92%) and its EDI strategy (95%). 

But, while many organisations are embracing apprenticeships and focusing on social mobility, the report’s findings reveal a gap between HR leaders who see the potential of apprenticeships for social mobility (85%) and those who plan to use them in the next 12 months (65%). 

The report also found that 38% of organisations do not currently have a way of measuring social mobility in their business, with difficulties in measuring (43%) and not knowing how (24%) being two of the main reasons for this. 

Indeed, the Social Mobility Commission State of the Nation 2023 report found that measuring social mobility in the UK is becoming more complex, and a person’s social mobility is not only dependent on who their parents are and their education, but also where they grew up. 

The report found that over half of roles in large businesses require a degree. Despite this, when assessing a potential new hire, more HR leaders today say apprenticeships are vital criteria when assessing candidates for roles (83%) than those who say degrees are important criteria (81%), while only 68% feel a degree from a prestigious university is an important criteria. 

85% of HR and L&D decision-makers believe that degree apprenticeships specifically have a role to play in creating equal opportunities for new and current employees. 

James Kelly, Co-founder and CEO of Corndel, said: “Social mobility in the UK is tragically going backwards. High-quality education, like professional apprenticeships, changes lives and can have a profound effect on social mobility. The importance lies in embedding these apprenticeships within a broader strategic context that incorporates a range of equality and diversity initiatives. By combining apprenticeships with broader diversity and inclusion initiatives, HR teams can truly champion social mobility and foster a more equitable and dynamic workforce.”

To help support HR and L&D teams with information and a clear roadmap for how the Apprenticeship Levy can help improve social mobility,  Corndel has also developed a toolkit for HR and L&D teams to help guide them through the complex apprenticeship levy landscape. This guidance includes: 

  • Resourcing the apprenticeship team properly to manage apprenticeship levy usage
  • Having a clear long-term strategy that is ambitious and has resources
  • Integrating the levy funds into HR and L&D functions while championing social mobility
  • Seeking commitment and buy-in to levy-funded programmes and social mobility across the business

You can read the whole report: Elevating Social Mobility on the Corndel website

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

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