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Vocational Training is Failing Girls – EOC Report

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Britain is failing to provide real opportunity and choice for young people entering training and work, according to a report published today by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

The Free to Choose report reveals that young people – particularly girls from lower socio-economic groups – are not being given the access to careers advice, work-experience placements and training opportunities.

By contrast, girls who have entered work through higher education have broken into new, higher paid jobs in areas like medicine and law and now form more than half of entrants.

While 80% of girls and 55% of boys said that they would or might be interested in learning to do a non-traditional job, the EOC said that only a sixth of young people received any advice or information on work experience in a sector currently dominated by the opposite sex.

The situation was said to have a particularly damaging effect on this group of girls because jobs with a mostly female workforce offer much lower rates of pay than those where the workforce is mostly male, for instance salaries for those employed in childcare are half or less than in areas such as engineering and plumbing.

The investigation also found a clear correlation between skills shortages and those sectors with few women. Meanwhile 80% of employers surveyed said that a better gender mix would create a better range of skills and talents.

Julie Mellor, chair of the EOC, said: "Girls from lower socio-economic groups are often ending up in lower paid work than boys, despite doing well at school. Britain can't go on letting young people down – the choices they make at an early age affect their whole lives and the economy suffers if employers can't get the right mix of skills and talents.

"Our findings demonstrate how important it is for Government to remove the barriers facing young people and the employers who want to take them on – with careers advice available to every child, including information on non-traditional work and its pay, the chance of two work experience placements, one non-traditional; and apprenticeships which open doors to more non-traditional trainees."

In response to the report Ruth Kelly, Secretary of State for Education and Skills, called the links between occupational segregation, national and employer productivity, skills shortages and the gender pay gap "striking".

"It is clear that these issues need to be addressed, both for the benefit of our economy and on social justice grounds," she said.

Kelly added that the recent 14-19 and Skills White Papers contained proposals that should help redress the balance. "These (proposals) include improving the quality and range of information, advice and guidance available to teenagers and adults, and the aim of creating a truly comprehensive education system," she said.

* The EOC has launched a website – www.works4me.org.uk – to help young people find out more about career options.

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