- New report finds nine in 10 HR leaders report that increasing social mobility is an important part of their company’s EDI strategy
- More HR leaders today say apprenticeships are vital criteria (83%) when assessing candidates for roles than degrees (81%)
- Corndel publishes new toolkit with guidance for HR and L&D teams to navigate the apprenticeship levy and the opportunities it offers to support social mobility
Findings in workplace training provider Corndel’s new Elevating Social Mobility Report* suggests that UK businesses are keen to improve social mobility yet often lack the means or knowledge to follow through with this aim.
The report, which is based on a survey of 300 HR and Learning and Development (L&D) decision makers in UK businesses, found 85% of organisations believe apprenticeships are a key route for social mobility. The government also announced an additional £50 million investment for apprenticeships in November’s Autumn Statement, which will be used to create more opportunities for apprenticeships.
Over a quarter (27%) 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%).
Businesses value social mobility but measuring problems hold them back
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.
Apprenticeships more important than degrees for HR leaders
The report found that over half (53%) 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, commented: “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
“As our research and long-standing client partnerships showcase, the Apprenticeship Levy isn't merely a fiscal obligation – it's a tool waiting to be harnessed to progress social mobility. It's evident that UK businesses are recognising the importance of this initiative, with social mobility carving out a significant position in their EDI strategy. Upskilling and investing in people is both a responsibility and an opportunity,” added James Kelly.
Case study: Ricoh
Companies like Ricoh, the digital printing and services provider, have embraced social mobility and have a strong heritage of offering apprenticeships.
Rebecca Rodger, Apprentice and Talent Development Manager at Ricoh UK, said: “Apprenticeships offer people a golden ticket to enter the workplace at a professional level while also obtaining a qualification without accruing student debt, as well as giving people the opportunity to change roles and develop new skills through continuous learning opportunities.”