In a new report Making Apprenticeships Work for Young Women, the Young Women’s Trust finds that Britain’s apprenticeship system is reinforcing existing gender inequalities, and that in some cases, the imbalance between men and women is worsening.
Historically more men than women took apprenticeships, largely in manual trades heavily dominated by men, but since 2010 women apprentices have outnumbered men. In 2014/15 there were 264,750 female apprentices and 235,140 male. This should be a success story, but sadly the headline figures mask the fact that many opportunities are being missed because of the persistence of occupational segregation by gender.
For example, women comprise 94 per cent of childcare apprentices but less than 4 per cent of engineering apprentices. Most worryingly, the percentage of female engineering apprentices has actually declined from 4.6 per cent in 2002 to 3.8 per cent in 2014 (the most recent year for which figures are available).
Occupational segregation in apprenticeships contributes to the fact that young women are losing out at every level:
- Women tend to work in fewer sectors.
- Women receive lower pay than men; an average of £4.82 an hour compared with £5.854. Male apprentices get paid 21 per cent more per hour, leaving women potentially over £2000 worse off per year.
- Women are less likely to receive training as part of their apprenticeship.
- Women are more likely to be out of work at the end of their apprenticeship. 16 per cent of women said that they were out of work, compared to 6 per cent of men.
The report goes on to say that young women tend to get funnelled into a narrow range of careers that are insecure, lower paid and have fewer routes for progression; in other words, apprenticeships are currently reinforcing, rather than challenging, occupational segregation by gender.
The Trust makes a range of recommendations, under the following headings:
1. Positive action to increase diversity in apprenticeships
2. Greater emphasis on the collection and publication of data relating to apprenticeships
3. Increased pay and financial support for apprentices
4. Greater availability of part-time and flexible apprenticeships
5. A renewed focus on the advice and support given to apprentices before, during and after their apprenticeship.
The Trust believes that, if taken up, these recommendations will transform the experience of apprenticeships for young women and bring huge benefits to employers and the wider economy.
You can read the report summary here
You can read the full report here