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Single parents frozen out of apprenticeships

Research released for National Apprenticeship Week paints a mixed view of apprenticeships, with more female management apprentices but few single parents

Single parents are being frozen out of apprenticeship schemes, according to research by charity Gingerbread.

Its Making Apprenticeships and Traineeships Work for Single Parents report found that just one in 200 (0.5%) single parents of working age (16-64-year-olds) were doing an apprenticeship in the second quarter of 2018, a figure which has not increased since the equivalent period in 2017.

The research, which analysed data from a range of secondary sources, found that single parents face three main barriers to accessing work: a lack of advertised part-time and flexible vacancies, low pay levels, and a lack of appropriate or matched childcare.

Most single parents, particularly those with young children, need part-time roles in order to take up an apprenticeship or a traineeship, the research noted. However, just 11% of apprentices are contracted for less than 30 hours a week, with just 3% working 16-19 hours a week, according to the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy’s 2017 Government Apprenticeship Pay Survey.

Gingerbread said that while government guidance for employers includes apprenticeships being open to part-time roles, this has not translated into flexible roles being advertised.

Laura Dewar, policy officer at Gingerbread, commented that as the target to get three million apprentices into work by 2020 approaches, the government has overlooked single parents. “Despite the current government focus on apprenticeships and traineeships, there is little evidence that these schemes have had a significant impact on single parents to date,” she said.

“We know single parents want to work and apprenticeships have been positioned as the cornerstone of the government's work skills agenda. With the clock ticking on their target of getting three million people into schemes by 2020, the government has missed an open goal by making apprenticeship schemes incompatible with single parents' lives and commitments.”

The charity has called on the government to scrap existing apprenticeship targets, which measure apprenticeship starts, and to instead include more nuanced measures of quality, including the availability of flexible and part-time apprenticeships. It has recommended that policymakers focus on increasing the skill level of single parents and provide career and skills support for all single parents who move on to job seeking benefits.

Separate research by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that almost half (49%) of the uptake of management apprentices since this qualification was introduced has been by women.

Its data, collected from 572 CMI management apprentices from February 2018-2019, found that those doing management apprenticeships feel the schemes are making them more productive at work. Eighty nine per cent said it is giving them better career prospects, with the same percentage citing a positive impact on their organisation.

The CMI’s CEO Anne Francke said: “Management apprenticeships play an important role in boosting social mobility and helping redress the imbalance in our businesses and boardrooms: over 40% of management apprentices are from the poorer parts of the UK, and nearly half are women. If the UK is to prosper post-Brexit, then it will be critical that we accelerate and diversify the pipeline of talented future leaders.”