Young women and apprenticeships: still not working?

This report highlights the extent to which the system continues to let down young women and calls for urgent change to put equality and opportunity at the heart of the apprenticeship programme.

Following on from the 2015 report Making apprenticeships work for young women, this report looks at the progress that has been made at the mid-point of the government’s timeline to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.

The reputation of apprenticeships is shifting and there are early signs that employers are investing more in apprenticeships. Both these factors, as well as a continued focus on increasing higher level apprenticeships, have given a boost to numbers as the Government seeks to hit its 3 million apprenticeship target.

However, there remains much to be done to ensure that the apprenticeship programme delivers for young women whilst also meeting the skills demands of the economy. Apprenticeships must become more affordable, more diverse and more flexible. Firstly, too many women are still stuck in poorly paid apprenticeships with little opportunity for progression.

Low pay in general pushes young people away from the apprenticeship route. With 43% of apprentices earning less than their costs for training the Government must act to increase the apprenticeship minimum wage and financial support available to apprenticeships. This should include investment in the enforcement of the minimum wage and the offer of bursaries to support those apprenticeships who are struggling the most.

There is also an urgent need to improve careers advice and support for young women to enable them to take up opportunities in a wide range of sectors, particularly those which are currently male-dominated. Additional payments and funding for employers to boost diversity would also help to increase diversity across a range of sectors.

This would not only improve their prospects but would help the economy plug the skills gaps in sectors such as engineering and construction which are struggling to fill vacancies.

Finally, the apprenticeship offer needs to be more flexible. The lack of part-time opportunities in particular is acting as a barrier. Employers and training providers need to work together to be more creative about offering apprenticeships part-time. These efforts must be supported by the Government in promoting apprenticeship, including through improvements to the Find an Apprenticeship service to make part-time apprenticeships easier to find.

Young Women’s Trust will continue to monitor the impact of the ongoing reforms and we hope that we see a real transformation in the way apprenticeships work for young women

I was put off from doing an apprenticeship in a theatre because it was full time at apprentice wage and I couldn’t figure out how I could survive on that. If it was part time I could have done it alongside higher paid work.

Emma, aged 26