Today is IDAHO Day, the international day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia – and WorldSkills UK is incredibly proud to support it. Rights, respect and recognition for people who identify as LGBT+ have come an incredibly long way in the UK over the past 50 years.

As part of our celebration of IDAHO Day, I’m attending a reception in Parliament being held by the Apprenticeship Diversity Champions Network (ADCN). As a Network, we’re looking at what more we can do to make apprenticeships more welcoming for young LGBT+ people. There’s a real need to make progress on this front. Young people today are far more fluid in their sexual orientation than previous generations: a recent YouGov poll found that 49% of young people do not identify as heterosexual for example. The ability to celebrate who you are in the workplace is something young people today expect. And employers should be thinking hard about how to attract and retain this young talent pipeline.

Too often young people go back into the closet when they start work – 62% of graduates do this for fear of not fitting in according to research from the US-based Human Rights Campaign. For employers, getting the right approach to LGBT+ inclusion will not only bring loyalty, but also higher productivity: Out Now research shows that in most countries there is a greater than 25% productivity gain achieved when LGBT+ workers feel able to be open with all their work colleagues. We need to do more to extend LGBT+ initiatives and programmes to embrace younger people, like apprentices, entering the workforce.  There’s already some excellent examples of best practice.

For our own part, we’re proud that 30% of the WorldSkills UK Senior Leadership Team are LGBT+, and I’m personally committed to leading our LGBT+ inclusion work, as well as furthering that of the ADCN through strengthening our involvement with the LGBT+ charity Stonewall and specialist groups like InterEngineering to better position apprenticeships  as LGBT+ inclusive. At Channel 4, they actively monitor diversity and support LGBT+ equality; 14% of their apprentices identify as LGBT+. Rolls-Royce has set targets related to the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, which provides feedback on an organisation’s approach to LGBT+ equality and incorporates direct feedback from LGBT+ employees.

All ADCN members are committed to pressing ahead with progress on our efforts to improve LGBT+ diversity throughout this year. For me, one of the most powerful ways in which this can be achieved is through role modelling. IDAHO Day is a reminder of the need for more and more visible LGBT+ role models at work in the public and private sectors. OUTstanding, an LGBT+ social enterprise, celebrates the power of role models – today’s and tomorrow’s leaders, as well as allies, in its work with the Financial Times. Its programme demonstrates that effective role modelling can help change the conversation on LGBT+ inclusion at work.

At WorldSkills UK, we run a successful role models programme which involves young people in apprenticeships or technical careers who have been involved in our skills competitions going back into schools and sharing their experiences. These alumni are ambassadors for WSUK’s wider values, including our commitment to reach out to LGBT+ young people.  Giving young people role models from within their own age range is a proven and powerful way of ensuring all talent is realised. In the coming months, our alumni programme will be playing an even bigger role in ensuring more LGBT+ young people are encouraged to get involved in our programmes and pursue apprenticeships and technical career routes.

So let’s celebrate IDAHO Day today, reflect on the progress we’ve made on LGBT+ equality, acknowledge the journey we’ve still got to go on, and most importantly, all commit to ensuring apprenticeships are a positive choice for all young people!

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