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Apprenticeships: 'huge inequality' as women more likely to train for low-paid jobs

Women apprentices are far more likely to end up in low-paid jobs as a result of training in "female-dominated" sectors, a report published today has found.

The joint study from the TUC and the National Apprenticeship Service found gender stereotyping was dissuading young women from careers in traditionally male industries.

It found while there has been a rise in women taking apprenticeships over the past 10 years, many end up in sectors such as childcare and hairdressing, where wages tend to be lower and career progression opportunities less frequent.

The study, Under-representation by gender and race in apprenticeships,also raised concerns about the low number of black and Asian people taking apprenticeships, especially in higher-paid sectors such as engineering and construction.

The report said more than 98% of apprentices in construction and vehicle repair were male, while more than 90% of childcare and hairdressing apprentices were female.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said while there was "genuine political will" to improve apprenticeships and access to them, "huge inequalities" were still a problem.

"Young women still overwhelmingly find themselves pursuing careers in 'traditional' industries which tend to pay less, and black and Asian people continue to be under-represented in key sectors of the economy," she said.

"Unless we create better training and employment opportunities for young people, and challenge gender stereotyping and discrimination from the outset, the situation is not going to improve."


To deal with "gender imbalance" the report recommends:

  • Policies aimed at addressing gender segregation should be targeted at the bottom end of the youth labour market.
  • More research into the barriers facing black and Asian people looking to take up apprenticeships and employers' recruitment strategies which may prevent this.
  • More targeted support and careers guidance for young women and students from ethnic backgrounds from school-age upwards.
  • More taster courses and work experience for young people before they decide on their chosen apprenticeship.
  • More visits for young women to male-dominated workplaces.

Minister for women and equalities Helen Grant said women should not be restricted by a "narrow set of gender stereotyped ideals".

"Women outperform men in so many ways and we need to fill them with the confidence that matches their potential," Grant said.

"While there are more women in work than ever before, Stem subjects [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] are still a male-dominated world. Women are seriously under-represented in this sector. Not only are women missing out on what can be a highly rewarding career, but UK companies are missing out on a huge pool of talent."