Susanna Lawson, co-founder and director of OneFile

As a member of the BAME Apprenticeship Alliance advisory panel, I see the work that goes into promoting diversity in apprenticeships, and the huge difference it makes for people across the country.  

At the moment, only 10% of apprentices come from BAME backgrounds, but thanks to the support of BAMEAA and the 5 Cities project, the Government has pledged to increase this to 16% by 2020. Companies across the country should be following FE's lead when it comes to diversity. As the UK's largest employer, I wondered what the NHS is doing – or has done – to boost apprenticeships.   

The NHS has similar programmes in place. The diversity and inclusion strategy is part of the NHS constitution and summits are held every year to promote diversity, share best practice and help trusts meet their quotas.  

But diversity is about more than targets and reports, it's about valuing difference and learning about each other. It's about creating a diverse workforce where everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential. It's about building a fair working community that reflects the patient population.  

The NHS has already achieved a lot in terms of diversity. The ethnic breakdown of the NHS's total staff closely reflects the UK workforce – 78% of NHS employees are white, while 87% of the working population is white. 5% of NHS staff are black compared to 3% of the UK workforce. And 8% of the NHS is Asian or British Asian, while only 7% of the UK workforce is. Looking at these stats, the NHS actually has a high proportion of BAME (black and Asian minority ethnic) staff – which is great! However, the NHS still suffers from a chronic lack of diversity in leadership.  

In a recent freedom of information request, 98% of all NHS trust chairs were reported as white. 96% of executive directors are white, 93% of non-executive directors are white, and 71% of leaders are male.  

These stats are very disappointing. While the whole NHS workforce is diverse, people from BAME backgrounds aren't climbing the career ladder to leadership. This highlights an issue with development and promotion. BAME staff may not be getting the support they need to excel in their roles, may not be encouraged to go for promotions, or may be discriminated against during the promotion process. There's still a lot of unknowns, but what is clear is that more needs to be done to help all staff progress – and the sooner we make a difference, the better.  

The whitewash in leadership is discouraging for BAME staff who want to excel, but lack of diversity is bad for patients too. Organisations with a gender and ethnically diverse workforce outperform less diverse ones. There's also evidence that the treatment of BAME staff in the NHS directly impacts patient outcomes. To increase diversity and improve patient care, the NHS needs to start at the top. Increasing BAME representation in NHS boards will initiate a trickle-down of equality and encourage more BAME staff to join NHS boards – it's fundamental to the future of the NHS.  

So what can trusts dto boost BAME board numbers? 

Trusts need to give all their staff the opportunity to progress to leadership, and this means investing in training. This could be through the leadership programme or with high-level apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are a great option for staff at all levels as there's a huge range of subjects available – from management to nursing. And trusts can use their apprenticeship levy funds to pay for training, so there's no extra cost.  

See how higher apprenticeships work in the NHS here.  

At OneFile, we believe everyone deserves to reach their potential, so we work with organisations like BAMEAA to promote diversity, and I work with local schools to promote apprenticeships to everyone. 

We've also developed our software to help everyone learn and succeed. With OneFile, staff can learn online, record their progress and manage their progression – from starting out to senior management. This makes training much easier to manage as users can build a portfolio of evidence to prove their skills. It means all staff have a record of their achievements to show exactly why they deserve to become a leader – no matter their gender or ethnicity.  

Susanna Lawsonco-founder and director of OneFile

To see how OneFile works and how it can help you increase diversity in your trust, download our free guide.

About OneFile: Supporting over 600,000 users worldwide, OneFile is the UK's leading eportfolio for learning and development – and winner of the 2017 Queen's Award for Innovation. But we do more than sell software. We believe people deserve to reach their full potential – that's why we've made it our mission to shape the futures of 1 million people by 2020.

To achieve this, we've developed OneFile into an all-in-one learning software ideal for all types of vocational training. It's a training eportfolio, assessment software, learning environment and CPD tracker – with more features than any other on the market.

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