Data on apprenticeship starts in England shows that Asian, Black and Mixed heritage people are still significantly and disappointingly underrepresented in apprenticeships.
Asian, Black and Mixed groups in England together make up 16.8% of the population (Census 2021).
Yet, this same group accounts for 13.6% for apprenticeship starts in 2021/2022 in England. Looking closer, only 6.4% of Asian people started an apprenticeship, whilst making up 9.6% of the total population. 
These latest statistics show apprenticeships starts falling short of reflecting the ethnic diversity of the population in England.
Action for Race Equality, a national charity working with employers to improve ethnic minority representation, is further concerned that these ethnic groups remain underrepresented in higher paying sectors and overrepresented in sectors with lower pay.
According to the Youth Futures Foundation’s 2022 survey of 2,296 ethnic minority young people, many young people (44% of young Asian people, and 57% of young Black people) see their ethnicity as a barrier to career success.  The research also found:
- 7 in 10 young people (71%) have experienced some form of workplace discrimination
- 2 in 5 have experienced discrimination when applying for a job (37%) and/or at a job interview (36%)
- More than half (55%) of young Black people feel that employers underestimate their abilities because of their ethnic background
We now need employers in multicultural cities like London, Leicester, Birmingham and Manchester to set higher ethnicity targets for apprenticeships to reflect their communities. ARE believes these should be between 40% to 55% of the apprentices’ recruited.
In a 2021 report, the Hamilton Commission also found that, out of 60,000 apprenticeship starts in engineering across all skill levels, just 1,120 were taken up by Black students – 2% of the total. Asian students made up 1,980 – 3% of the total.
Overall ethnic minority representation was only 9%. This compares very poorly with the school population, where some 34% of students are from ethnic minority backgrounds. 
ARE calls on the Department for Education to work more proactively with employers in the construction, digital and engineering sectors to improve the recruitment and retention of ethnic minority young people for apprenticeships, and support them in their routes to employment.
There are companies making a concerted effort to recruit ethnic minority young people
WTW and Thames Water, along with HS2, Lendlease, Keyhaven Capital partners, and Veritas Investment, form part of our Employer Champions Group and are part of a network of employers working closely with two ethnic minority employment initiatives known as Moving on Up (MoU) and the Mayor of London’s Workforce Integration Network which are tackling lower employment rates for Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi people in London.
Jeremy Crook OBE, Chief Executive of ARE says:
We have built good links with employers through the Moving on Up employment initiative; produced an Inclusive Employers’ Toolkit to help employers recruit ethnic minority young people; and worked with employers to produce a Top Tips guide for young people on how to prepare for interviews. We want employers to make use of these practical tools.’
It is important that employers make a commitment to engage directly with Black and Asian young people in their offices, in local colleges and at ethnic minority employment events. Those employers that set recruitment targets and take the broadest approach to positive action are being rewarded with greater interest from talented ethnic minority young people.’
We want to see our employers in our major cities connecting with local councils and ethnic minority employability organisations to take a sector based approach to tackle race disparities in apprenticeships.
We need many employers up and down the country to embrace the positive action examples in this statement. The Government will be publishing new Positive Action guidance for employers later this year, but they must explore ways of incentivising employers to use positive action. The government should explore a connection with the levy and positive action for ethnic minorities, women and disabled people in sectors where they are underrepresented.’
In 2021, Action for Race Equality published research looking at ‘Ethnic Minority Young People & Apprenticeships in England’ which made 5 recommendations to improve apprenticeships for ethnic minority young people.
For more information contact: Chief Executive Officer, Jeremy Crook OBE
 2021 Census Data: ARE has not included the ONS ‘Other ethnic group’ categories which include Arab, and also Gypsy/ Traveller population which come under the ‘White’ category heading. GRT communities are ethnic minorities and experience significant racism and discrimination in the labour market. ARE works collaboratively with the Traveller Movement and Friends, families and Travellers.
 The Hamilton Commission, ACCELERATING CHANGE: Improving Representation of Black People in UK Motorsport, 2021. Jeremy Crook OBE, CEO of Action for Race Equality, was one of the commissioners on the Hamilton Commission’s research into improving the representation of Black people in UK motorsports.