Diversity, Equity & inclusion:

How to make apprenticeships a safe space for LGBTQ+ learners

There are two types of organisations out there: Those that say they care about creating a fairer and more equal working environment and those that actually do it.

As the world continues to evolve and be more inclusive, the insurance and financial services sectors are lagging in the diversity department. Historically being dominated by older white, male workers and doing little to amend the image of an ‘old boys club’, through our apprenticeships we aim to attract younger, more diverse talent to the sector.

Combined with the Government’s ambitious targets for apprentices, Members of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) have pledged to double the number of apprenticeships across the insurance and long-term savings sector to 2,500 by 2025. That could mean that over the next three years there’s a chance that we may see an increase in new learners identifying as LGBTQ+, as statistics indicate an estimated 3.1% of the UK population aged 16 years and over identified as LGBTQ+ in 2020, rising from 2.7% in 2019 and almost doubling the percentage from 2014 (1.6%).

This increase in LGBTQ+ apprentices is still only a possibility as the National Society of Apprentices (NSOA) states that many young members of LGBTQ+ don’t apply for apprenticeships due to fears of employee discrimination.

 

Here’s three ways organisations can boost the numbers of LGBTQ+ apprentices:

Breaking down barriers

It’s sad but true – many LGBTQ+ are not applying for apprenticeships due to fears of discrimination from their follow employees. Through specific anti-discrimination statements – specifically referencing gender identity as well as featuring existing LGBTQ+ employees as role models in apprenticeship recruitment literature – corporate communications and websites demonstrate that they are positive about employing members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Featuring LGBTQ+ employees on company collateral is one thing, but the language used must reflect the organisations progressiveness, using language that does not assume everyone identifies as heterosexual and including pronouns such as them/their instead of the traditional him/her and his/hers.

Organisations need to show that their support extends beyond just their business, by choosing training providers that can give clear evidence of their commitment levels to LGBTQ+ apprentices and insisting on equal standards from end point assessment organisations.

Creating a supportive working environment

After you’ve removed the outward facing barriers, what next? It’s time to build from the ground up, starting with the company policies. Your organisation should have a clear policy statement that takes a zero-tolerance stance on harassment in the workplace with specific reference to harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The policies should be clear about the types of behaviour that constitute harassment, showing commitment that harassment complaints, whether it is internal or external will be seriously investigated. Along with the right policies, organisations toned to ensure that their line managers and HR advisers are fully trained and capable to handle harassment complaints promptly, sensitively, and effectively to prevent victimisation occurring.

Gathering accurate data

Some organisations monitor and update information on their employees on a regular basis to ensure that they have the most up-to-date snapshot of their workforce and include questions around sexual orientation and gender identity. Understandably there may be concerns around why organisations need to collect this data and potential fears that employees will be ‘outed’ against their will or not even identify with the options provided. So your business must take time to carefully explain why the data is being collected and reassure employees that strict confidentiality is maintained.

Consistent data collection provides organisations with evidence of changes in the workplace; are the new policies having a positive effect? Are the new recruitment practices working? These questions will need to be answered and over time, data collection will not only provide viable answers but make instances of discrimination and harassment visible and therefore reprimandable.

Data gathering practices help organisations see whether policies work. After all that is one of the reasons for monitoring data around race and disability, and the same principles should apply to sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

Organisations must evolve and adapt to the changes going on in society or risk going the way of the dinosaurs. Of course, boosting the representation of LGBTQ+ leaners in apprenticeships is not something that can happen overnight. There’s no quick fix, but by committing to just those three practices, organisations can be more open and inclusive to all kinds of learners.

Diversity, equity & inclusion (DE&I) is more than a phrase, it’s a mantra that we here at Davies are passionate about and continually strive to achieve on our apprenticeship courses. That’s why we team up with employers all year round to create a culture with DE&I at its core.

 

Our learning solutions team delivers a range of apprenticeship programmes across insurance & financial services. Get in touch with to find out how we help businesses build a more diverse and talented workforce with use from the apprenticeship levy.

Hayley Beattie
Delivery Manager
Hayley.Beattie@davies-group.com

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