Young female apprentices being left behind, says new report

Monday 14 March 2016


Young female apprentices being left behind, says new report

Young women are missing out at every stage of apprenticeships and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken by employers and Government, warns a new report from the Young Women’s Trust.

Although more women are now entering into apprenticeships than men, the charity finds that they are paid less than their male counterparts and less likely to go on to gain employment. This, the report finds, is largely due to women still being woefully under-represented within male-dominated sectors, which tend to be better paid and have better career prospects.

The report, Making Apprenticeships Work for Young Women finds that extreme gender segregation remains a major problem: for every female apprentice working within engineering, there are 25 male apprentices; in the construction industry, there are 56 men to every woman and in Plumbing, a staggering 74 men to every woman.

Glynn Davies, 25, one of the women involved in the development of the campaign, started an apprenticeship in Construction but did not complete it due to the discrimination she faced.

 “I wanted to be a bricklayer so I started an apprenticeship with City and Guilds. I was 17 and couldn’t wait to get muddy! From the moment I stepped on to the building site I was automatically treated differently. There was one other woman but we were 2 out of 20 and it quickly became difficult to persevere. I experienced constant sexist remarks like ‘get us a cuppa tea’ or ‘be careful you don’t want to break a nail’. When I approached my course coordinator the general response was ‘it’s only banter’ or my favourite ‘don’t be emotional’. The whole experience was irritating and emotionally draining so I stopped and went straight into the labour market.”

In sectors such as engineering, the report finds that women make up a lower proportion of apprentices than a decade ago. However, although young women are struggling to breakthrough into male dominated sectors, young men have begun to make inroads into historically female dominated sectors, notably Childcare and Health and Social Care.

Young Women’s Trust, which supports and represents young women struggling to live on low or no pay, warns that unless this entrenched gender imbalance is addressed, the UK may be unable to meet the demand for skilled workers in sectors including engineering, where there is a serious shortage.

In addition to being locked out of certain careers, the charity also reports that young female apprentices are more likely to achieve poorer outcomes than their male peers:

  • Young women apprentices receive less pay than men - £4.82 an hour compared to £5.85 for men, making women on average £2,000 worse off a year.
  • Young women apprentices report receiving less training than men - 23% of women received no training compared to 12% of men.
  • 65% of young women apprentices are concentrated in just five sectors, whereas the same percentage of young men apprentices work in double the number of sectors, giving male apprentices greater career options.
  • 16% of women apprentices have said they were out of work following their apprenticeship, compared to just 6% of men.

Making Apprenticeships Work for Young Women makes a number of recommendations to employers and the Government including:

  • Positive Action -  introducing diversity action plans and measures from employers which actively encourage the recruitment and retention of young women, including setting targets to increase the participation of women in targeted sectors, reserving places on training courses for women, mentoring schemes and reviewing language used in recruitment advertising to make more “female friendly”.
  • The collecting and publishing of Apprenticeships data by employers including by gender to increase transparency and accountability.
  • Greater availability of flexible and part-time apprenticeships to allow for caring and other responsibilities, with renewed guidance from Government for employers on this.
  •  Increased pay and financial support for apprentices including childcare provision, on the same basis as other workers and the introduction of a single National Minimum Wage for all age groups regardless of apprenticeships status.

Dr Carole Easton, Chief Executive of Young Women’s Trust, said:

“I welcome the Government’s commitment to substantially increase the number of apprenticeships for young people. I very much hope that everyone, particularly employers and the Government, will now take the action Young Women’s Trust recommends to ensure the gender gap in apprenticeships soon becomes a thing of the past”.

Young Women’s Trust is launching an employer pledge encouraging businesses to introduce measures which make apprenticeships work better for young women, with Barclays the first employer to sign it.

Mike Thompson, director of Apprenticeships at Barclays and member of the Prime Minister’s apprenticeship delivery board, said:

 “The findings of Making Apprenticeships Work for Young Women are worrying – how is it that young women are missing out at every stage of apprenticeships? At Barclays, we’re dedicated to equality in the workplace and rather than focusing on gender, qualifications or past experience, we look for candidates who show real potential. 

"We need to take action to make sure that women have the same chances, support and pay as their male counterparts; we have some fantastic examples of female apprentices doing extremely well at Barclays.
"To this end, we are proud to be the first company to support the Young Women’s Trust pledge to encourage businesses to introduce measures which make apprenticeships work better for young women.”

Download the full report here


Young Women’s Trust supports and represents women aged 16-30 struggling to live on low or no pay in England and Wales and who are at risk of being trapped in poverty. The charity offers free coaching and personalised advice on job applications, conducts research, runs campaigns and works with young women to build confidence and advocate for fair financial futures.

For more information or to request a copy of the report please contact: Joe Levenson on 07904 294372