By Nadeem Badshah
THE number of British Asians taking apprenticeships has increased each year since 2015 while the figure has dropped among people from other backgrounds, new figures have revealed.
Some 5.5 per cent of people of south Asian origin, 21,370 individuals, signed up for the training schemes in 2018-2019. It compares to 4.7 per cent in 2017-2018 and 4.5 per cent the previous year.
Experts have suggested they’re no longer viewed negatively by many families, with IT, law firms and engineering companies among those offering the roles.
But the proportion of apprentices has fallen from 3.7 per cent to 3.5 per cent in the past three years in the black community and dropped from 89.4 per cent to 87.5 per cent among whites, the Department for Education figures showed.
Dr Mahendra Patel, an honorary visiting professor of pharmacy at the University of Bradford, told Eastern Eye: “Apprenticeships are more practical and another opportunity to learn while working.
“We are in a climate [due to pandemic] where we need income while learning and building our own profile in a specialty or vocation. BAMEs in the third and fourth generation are recognising this in the health sector; it gives them a sense of security too in securing a job at the end.”
The figures, published in November, also showed around half of British Asian apprentices last year were aged 25 and over with a similar percentage of males and females.
Professor Patel added: “Culturally, it was looked down upon but now parents and grandparents see that practical hands on experience supports their children’s learning skills. Even more importantly, the climate has changed. In the past, it was a university degree, apprentices were ‘second division’.
“Now in law, commerce, finance, health and other sectors, apprentices are going high up the ladder because they have seen it being done, it’s not as taboo as it used to be.
“Accountancy for example, as an apprentice you can get a diploma, do the exams then qualify to become a chartered accountant without going to university.”
Khalid Mahmood, a Labour MP and shadow defence minister, was among the first Asians to do an apprenticeship in the 1980s after completing an engineering course. He told Eastern Eye: “This [figures] is absolutely fantastic. We need people to become apprentices in manufacturing and engineering, hospitality, it is a skill for life.
“It’s an option for those who don’t do well in school. You can enter at Level 2 or at degree level like advanced engineering or IT. Some do not even go to university until later with the skills they learnt behind them to back their degree.
“As the shadow defence minister, I am pushing for procurement, cyber, manufacturing and am pushing the government to have more apprenticeships.
“If you have fallen on bad times you can start your own business with the skills and expertise learnt – today’s apprentices are tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.”
It comes as concerns have been raised over the future of on-the-job training programmes in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic. Research in November showed the government’s £2,000 bonus for every new apprentice hired is failing to stem the cull by employers.
The study by charity The Sutton Trust found an increase in the businesses making apprentices redundant, while there was a rise from nine per cent to 16 per cent in the proportion who said they would not hire any over the coming year.
Meanwhile, 58,160 new apprentices started in England between the start of the lockdown in March and July 31, a drop of 46 per cent on the same period in 2019.
Kamran Uddin, a writer and mosque worker, has urged young people to consider the qualification. He said: “It’s good to see the number of young Asians taking up apprenticeships.
“I always advise young people to look into apprenticeships as a viable option to kick-start their career, it gives you a head start in your chosen career by providing actual work experience and remuneration. University, unfortunately, just doesn’t have the appeal it once did, especially when you factor in the all financial costs.”
Oliver Khan is a Red Carnation Hotels degree apprentice at Pearson College London. Khan, who is working at Hotel 41 in the capital, said: “I chose a degree apprenticeship because for me, the low contact hours associated with the traditional university route wasn’t what I was looking for.
“The traditional experience is perfect for certain courses. However, I desired a more hands-on approach. This has allowed me to apply real business situations to certain aspects of my business course and vice versa.”