Apprenticeships gender gap – more needs to be done

Only 3% of apprenticeships in construction, planning and the built environment were taken up by women and girls in the 2017/18 academic year, according to a paper discussed at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Employment and Skills Panel.

The startling data from the Education and Skills Funding Agency highlights that these key sectors, which face particular skills demand, continue to be dominated by male entrants. 97 per cent of apprenticeships in these areas over the same period were taken up by males. 

In comparison, 85 per cent of apprenticeship starts in lower paid health, public services and care professions were female, while only 15 per cent of males started apprenticeships in these areas. 

A range of national research shows that male-dominated apprenticeships such as construction and engineering offer better pay and prospects than those in which women are concentrated.

For example, according to recent Department for Education figures, median earnings for apprentices five years post training for Construction, Planning and the Built Environment are £26,600 compared with £14,600 for Health, Public Services and Care professional, where more roles are held by women.

There were 22,250 apprenticeship starts in Leeds City Region during the 2017/18 academic year. This represents a fall of 7,970 (26 per cent) compared with the previous year, a similar decline to the average rate across England at 24 per cent, following the introduction of reforms to the UK apprenticeships system, including the Apprenticeship Levy.

The independent Future-Ready Skills Commission, which is supported by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to shape the future of the skills system, plans to tackle this issue by promoting apprenticeships and other work-based routes to training. The Skills Commission will also recommend investment in careers support, to ensure young people are leaving full-time education equipped with the knowledge and tools to help them with their next steps into the world of work, with a focus on skills needed for roles in the job market and information about pay and progression within particular sectors.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Chair of the Future-Ready Skills Commission, said: “With both National Apprenticeship Week International Women’s Day this week, we are reminded that more needs to be done to redress the gender balance in apprenticeship starts.

“Not only are women and girls missing out on better pay and better career prospects in sectors that offer massive opportunities for growth, but so is our economy. Demand for skills in the construction and engineering sectors is huge, so we need to find ways of overcoming outdated stereotypes and encourage more young women into these sectors.

“As a Combined Authority and LEP we are doing our bit locally, including our #FutureGoals initiative, which encourages teachers and young people to explore the amazing opportunities in high-demand sectors. We’ve also recently increased funding for businesses in our region to take on an apprentice. However the decision-making powers and investment we currently have don’t allow us to go far enough to reverse this historic imbalance.

“Removing barriers to apprenticeships and helping young people make informed career choices are important priorities for the Future-Ready Skills Commission which I Chair. We want to develop a skills system in which young people receive first class careers information based on real labour market intelligence and everyone is, inspired into careers based on skills and interests, rather than preconceived ideas of what would be suitable roles based on gender, ethnicity or background.”  

08 Mar 2019

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