Rolls Royce: promoting diversity through apprenticeships

Written by
Paul Broadhead
Rolls Royce

07 Mar 2018

07 Mar 2018 • by Paul Broadhead

For Rolls-Royce, diversity is essential to maintaining its world class offer, and the business is looking to its apprenticeship programme to ensure it builds an inclusive next generation of inspiring pioneers. Paul Broadhead, head of community & education outreach, explains.

As a global company providing highly-efficient integrated power and propulsion solutions used in aerospace, marine, energy and off-highway applications, innovation has been key to the success of Rolls-Royce.

For over a century, apprenticeships have been an important part of our business, playing a critical role in developing Rolls-Royce’s reputation for pioneering the power that matters.

Making a difference

With a long and proud history of apprenticeships, Rolls-Royce has experienced the many advantages of developing the careers of young people. With several of the company’s leadership team being former apprentices, Rolls-Royce is aware of the pipeline of talent and potential that apprenticeships can develop.

In addition, our membership of the 5% Club, which requires a promise to ensure 5% of employees are apprentices, graduates or sponsored students, further reinforces our commitment to recruiting apprentices. 

With an array of programmes and levels on offer covering all areas of business from engineering to accounting, Rolls-Royce has around 600 apprentices across the UK at any one time.

Despite the popularity of our own apprenticeship programmes, Rolls-Royce also believes that as a major employer, we have  a responsibility to lead by example and help make a real difference to both the wider STEM sector and society.

Diversity is a key priority for the business, and we have embarked on a series of diversity initiatives to attract talent from underrepresented groups – primarily focusing on engaging women, BAME and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds in STEM subjects.  

In line with this company-wide agenda, we are keen to champion diversity through our apprenticeship programme. In order to continue to be innovative, an inclusive culture and diverse workforce is critical to us. That’s why in 2014, we set an ambitious global target to reach 6 million people through STEM education programmes and activities by 2020. We believe bold targets encourage a more creative and engaging outreach.

Apprenticeships are one of the ways in which we can attract talented individuals, from all walks of life, and at the very beginning of their careers.  

Commitment to diversity

To formalise our commitment to diversity, Rolls-Royce has joined the Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network (ADCN). When you make a public commitment, it further galvanises the organisation to deliver. We are fortunate to have a successful and established apprenticeship programme but there’s always room to learn from others and improve.

The ADCN provides us with the opportunity to share some of the things we’ve learned from running apprenticeships, as well as the chance to work with other employers – both big and small.

Through the ADCN, we have made a number of public pledges to better diversity in its apprentice cohort. The business, for example, is focusing on attracting diverse and potential talent at an early age - reaching 14-19 year olds through its Industrial Cadet (silver) accredited work experience programme.

With a company focus on encouraging more women into STEM subjects, we are also aiming to double the number of girls currently on our work experience programme encouraging a 50/50 split by gender. 

In addition to providing 690 work experience placements, we also recruit 20 young apprentices. These apprentices who are aged 14 spend one day a week at the business for two years.

Reaching out to youngsters before they make the big decisions on their education or future careers is a great way to encourage young people into STEM subjects. Through doing this, we hope apprenticeships will emerge as a more accessible alternative route into these kinds of careers and inspire those from underrepresented groups to consider this path.
On top of our work with young people, Rolls-Royce has collaborated with other major industry organisations to design a ‘Women in Apprenticeships’ toolkit for employers.

Working with the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), The Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance (SEMTA), and Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), we have created a toolkit to assist employers, who might not have extensive resources, in attracting, engaging and supporting women in apprenticeships.

As a big company we accept we have a significant part to play in ensuring change happens. We need to ensure that smaller businesses, including those in our supply chains and wider sector, also have the tools to attract diverse talent into their businesses.

Looking ahead

With a number of activities in place across the business, we feel optimistic about what we can achieve through our pledges and the ADCN, not only for our own business but wider society. 

We wanted to demonstrate how incredibly proud we are of our apprentices and our apprenticeship programmes. By joining the ADCN we are able to show we’re dedicated to continually improving apprenticeships at Rolls-Royce, as well as make a valid contribution to changing the industry and society for the better.


Rolls Royce