Otis Boykin, Lincoln Hawkins, Garrett Morgan, Shirley Jackson, Lewis Latimer, Marie Van Britten…just to name a few people who have had an impact on our world – but does everyone know who these people are? These are all people from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (B.A.M.E) community who have played an inventive role or contributed to the electrical engineering sector in recent history, yet these individuals and many more inspiring people remain ‘hidden figures’.
As a leading training provider for electrical and heating and plumbing apprenticeships, JTL is both committed to and supportive of driving change across the building services engineering sector. To coincide with Black History Month (October), Rachel Jagger-Thomas, the diversity, safeguarding and inclusion advisor at JTL is speaking about the industry opportunities for people in the B.A.M.E communities.
Let’s face facts
In March 2021, the House of Commons Apprenticeship Statistics Briefing Paper revealed that the overwhelming majority (84.9%) of all learners starting an apprenticeship in 2019/20 were white. The proportion of starters from a B.A.M.E background was at its highest level since 2002/3 at 13.1% – an increase from 12.3% in 2018/19. The number of starters from a B.A.M.E background gradually increased between 2011/12 and 2016/17, from 51,350 to 55,310. Both the number of starters from a white background and a B.A.M.E background fell between 2016/17 and 2017/18. Although the number of starts by apprentices from a B.A.M.E background increased by over 6,000 from 2017/18 to 2018/19, the period between 2018/19 and 2019/20 witnessed the inverse, with the number of starts by apprentices from a B.A.M.E background falling by over 6,000. Clearly, there’s still a very long way to go to boost workplace diversity and showcase the benefits of an inclusive working environment.
The UK is a multicultural country where anyone seeking a career in the electrotechnical, plumbing, heating and ventilation trades has every opportunity to do well and be successful. Simply put, a person’s race, gender or age should be inconsequential – if you have the drive to succeed then you will.
With the on-going skills shortages in the building services engineering sector, there’s clearly the demand for these roles. So, what is preventing members of the B.A.M.E community from taking up a career in the skilled trades? Unfortunately, it is a common misconception that many young people believe that becoming an electrician or plumber “isn’t for them” – yet trade courses are academically challenging and can open the door to many other opportunities. Additionally, apprentices also need to be able to demonstrate good creative thinking and strong problem-solving skills when translating theory and techniques into actual practice.
Undertaking an apprenticeship allows you to earn while you learn, gaining valuable on-the-job experience while studying for industry-recognised qualifications in a skilled trade. The earning potential is good. Heating engineer apprenticeships, for example, start at £15,000 per year on average and once qualified, can earn between £25,000 and £35,000 per year, or even up to £50,000 for highly experienced engineers. Alternately, completing an intermediate level apprenticeship may be the first step on a journey to further qualifications in the future.
The changes to university life as a result of the impact of Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the prospect of heavy student debt from gaining a degree that may never be used, may make the apprenticeship route even more desirable.
Better for employees and clients
According to a FE Week News article published in August 2021, millennials and generation Z account for over two-thirds of the UK workforce, with many occupying a growing number of leadership roles in the workplace. In surveys carried out by FE Week and Glassdoor, 83% of millennials expressed a desire to work with companies that aligned with their values of diversity and inclusivity, indicating a shift towards prioritising workplace culture over salary and job status.
77% of talent professionals interviewed for LinkedIn’s Global Recruiting Trends of 2021 survey identified diversity and inclusivity as a priority within the recruitment process. Indeed, investment in Diversity and Inclusion programmes are shown to have a measurably beneficial impact upon company performance and culture. An FE Week news article in September 2021 reported that 70% of companies who have a Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programme said it was “very, or extremely beneficial”, while reports made by institutions such as McKinsey and the Harvard Business Review overwhelmingly found that organisations with a D&I programme see improvements in revenue and stock price.
Studies further reveal that companies with a well-implemented Diversity and Inclusion policy also see higher levels of creativity, performance and productivity amongst their workforce. 22% of these companies are, furthermore, more likely to be seen as an industry leader with high-calibre talent, with 12% also more likely to be seen as an inclusive workplace for people of diverse backgrounds. Greater diversity in the workplace essentially sets a virtuous cycle in motion, making companies more attractive to a broader range of talented individuals.
An ethnically diverse workforce can make a company more attractive to would-be employees. It’s also more attractive to customers and more competitive in its approach due to their customer base being better represented. Additionally, their workforces can draw on more experiences and wider perspectives to generate better ideas and progress more quickly.
JTL is committed to equality and diversity for all. We want to establish a culture of equality and diversity so that all applicants, apprentices, employers, sub-contractors and our staff have the opportunity to work in and towards an environment that is non-discriminatory. For more information about JTL’s apprenticeships opportunities and commitment to creating a more diverse workforce, visit https://www.jtltraining.com/apprenticeships/.
To learn more and to view JTL’s profile on Black History Month, visit https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/article/profile/section/education-training/jtl-training/
About the author
Rachel Jagger-Thomas is the diversity, safeguarding and inclusion advisor at JTL