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More female role models please

Monday 8th March 2021 is International Women’s Day and this year the theme is #choosetochallenge.

Rubitek is a business founded on one over-riding principal. That is to make apprenticeships better and as a business, this is what we choose to challenge every day. But what do apprenticeships have to do with International Women’s Day you might ask? Well, for many people, when they hear the word ‘apprenticeship’ they think of a young man, doing a construction or engineering course. We thought it would be fitting then, to take a look at why this stereotype exists, what the data tells us, and why we need to change things.

Three people with long hair
On international women's day we are calling for more female role models

In its 2018 Teenage Apprenticeships: Converting awareness to recruitment report funded by the Commercial Education Trust, Education and Employers (a charity dedicated to inspiring young people) identified gender stereotyping as an issue in apprenticeship careers provision with little being done to challenge stereotypes and promote ‘non-traditional’ roles to students.

Women work in far fewer industries than men

In a study published in 2016 by the Young Women’s Trust (YWT), Making Apprenticeships Work for Young Women, it found that almost 40% of all female apprentices worked in just two industries - Health and Social Care (14%) and Business and Administration (25%) – with the other 60% working in a further 3 industries. The report identified that male apprentices worked in 11 industries, giving them access to a wider range of job opportunities, qualification routes and career pathways. A later study in 2018 showed that female apprentices working in construction roles were outnumbered 50:1 and 25:1 in engineering roles. The figures don’t exactly support the #thisgirlcan message.

So how do we address the gender imbalance in apprenticeships?

National statistics on apprenticeships in England tell us that the number of men and women who start an apprenticeship is largely the same. That’s an encouraging start. But differences in pay, sector representation and opportunities for progression after completion of an apprenticeship are all factors which contribute to the gender gap in certain industries.

There’s no doubt the opportunities are there. More and more organisations are developing apprenticeship recruitment plans that promote equality and opportunity for females in an attempt to level up the female to male apprenticeship ratio. And there are almost 700 apprenticeship standards ranging from Level 2 to Level 7 (either approved for delivery or in development) in a whole range of subjects that span:

  1. agriculture, environmental and animal care

  2. business and administration

  3. care services

  4. catering and hospitality

  5. construction

  6. creative and design

  7. digital

  8. education and childcare

  9. engineering and manufacturing

  10. hair and beauty

  11. health and science

  12. legal, finance and accounting

  13. protective services

  14. sales, marketing and procurement

  15. transport and logistics

There’s no doubt more needs to be done to promote the extensive range of apprenticeships available – after all, if you don’t know it exists, how can you apply to do an apprenticeship in it? And having more female role models talking about their experience of doing non-traditional apprenticeships and the opportunities that follow will only serve to break down the stereotypes, raise aspirations and widen participation.

But employers also have a role to play. Those that actively promote apprenticeship opportunities to females report a wide range of additional benefits which include an increase in underrepresented groups; national recognition and awards; increased customer and employee satisfaction; and greater staff retention.

So, if you’re an employer currently looking for an apprentice to join your business, ask yourself whether your recruitment practices encourage applications from females. And if they do, ask yourself whether there’s a female apprentice in your organisation who could act as a role model to encourage others. Choose to challenge what you do and how you do it. The rewards could be game changing.

If you would like to learn more about Rubitek’s values, its culture, and what we are doing to make apprenticeships better for everyone, email or call us on 0330 133 0540.

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