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Apprenticeships still ‘jobs for the boys’


New research shows that female apprentices are still being left far behind their male counterparts.

The report 'Still More (Better Paid) Jobs for the Boys' - prepared for the TUC Young Members Forum - shows that while more apprenticeship places have opened up for women in general, this has not happened in better paid male-dominated sectors such as engineering and construction.

The proportion of men and women entering into apprenticeships overall are fairly even - 54.2% of people starting apprenticeships in 2006/07 were men, and 45.8% were women - but apprenticeships are still strongly divided along gender lines. In 2006/07, the worst industry culprits were construction with only 1.3% women apprentices, vehicle maintenance (1.4% female apprentices) and engineering (2.5%).

During the same period, 97.1% of apprentices in childcare were female and 91.7% of hairdressing apprenticeships were women, the two lowest paying sectors. The report shows that there has been virtually no change since 2002/03. In engineering the situation has actually worsened, with the proportion of women apprentices falling.

The TUC report also shows that big employers - often said to be better at tackling issues such as occupational segregation - are amongst the worst culprits. Of the large employers who contract directly with the Learning and Skills Council's National Employer Service (NES), women only comprise around one fifth of all apprentices taken on.

Of the ten most popular apprenticeships taken up by NES employers, six had less than 11% female apprentices. Even more strikingly, four of the five most popular apprenticeships taken up via the NES have less than 4% women - construction (1.2%), vehicle maintenance (1.3%), engineering (3.5%) and electro-technical (1.5%).

The TUC report suggests a six-point plan to tackle this growing inequality:

  • The government should set a national equality and diversity strategy to target particular groups, sectors and localities where gender divides exist.
  • It should make more use of means such as procurement policies to promote equality and diversity in apprenticeships and could put targets in place for Sector Skills Councils (SSCs), linked to government funding of SSCs.
  • As women are more likely to be in low paid apprenticeships than men, increasing the £80 minimum pay rate for apprenticeships would benefit women most. The minimum apprentice wage should urgently be raised to £110 per week.
  • Joint work between unions and employers on equality and diversity should be encouraged and supported by the government.
  • Adult apprenticeships should be expanded. Research shows older women are more likely to take up apprenticeships in non-traditional female roles, so expansion of the programme would help break down occupational segregation.
  • The government should fully explore how the public sector gender equality duty can ensure gender equality in apprenticeships.
  • To view the report in full please visit:


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