How to get more women into apprenticeships

Women make up 50% of apprentices, but there’s a huge gender in balance in some sectors.

How to get more women in apprenticeships

Women have had a tough time when it comes to apprenticeships.  

Traditionally, apprenticeships have been very male dominated, and women who did enrol stuck to more 'female' programmes – like childcare, beauty or hairdressing. This stereotyping has discouraged women from pursuing careers in traditionally male industries and has led to a huge gender split across the sectors.  

Today, women make up almost 50% of all apprentices, but only 2% of starts in construction, electro-technical and vehicle sectors. Women are outnumbered in engineering too – there are 25 male apprentices for every female one. In contrast, 92% of hairdressing apprentices are women. This is bad news for the UK workforce, and also for the gender pay gap which continues to rise. Female apprentices are, on average, £2,000 a year worse off their male counterparts.  

Things have got to change – but one company already doing their bit is British Gas. They encourage women into their apprenticeships and are taking steps to change their company culture. One of their female engineering apprentices said, 'working in a male dominated role is absolutely fine. I was slightly nervous at first and worried that I wouldn't be accepted, but that wasn't the case. All of my colleagues, male and female, have a really good attitude to their work and aren't concerned with what gender I am.' 

This shift in attitude is great news for the gals – and the boys. Gender diversity is important for everyone – so what can we do to get more women in apprenticeships? 

1. Part-time programmes

You don't hear about part-time apprenticeships very often, and only 1 in 10 apprentices work under 30 hours a week. This can be a barrier for women with childcare responsibilities who need to spend more time away from the workplace. Offering part-time courses will open up your apprenticeships to women and help gender diversity – it's a win-win.  

2. Encourage competition  

Fewer women enter skills competitions than men. They're just as worthy winners, but often lack the confidence or support to compete in male-dominated events. Encourage your staff to go for gold – if more women see their peers winning trophies they're more likely to enter competitions in the future.  

3. Change recruitment  

Even though they don't mean to, people tend to favour male applicants over female ones – even if they have the same qualifications. Keep this is in mind while you're recruiting. You could even cover names on CVs to make sure the process is completely unbias.  

4. Go online  

If you use a learning software to deliver your apprenticeships, your staff have the flexibility to work anytime, anywhere. This will help female apprentices with children juggle their schedule and work in a way that suits them – whether they're at work, at home or at the playpark.  

The sector is moving in the right direction, but there are lots of other things you can do to increase gender diversity in apprenticeships. Download our free guide to find out what practical steps you can take to boost diversity in your apprenticeship provision.  

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This article includes research and opinion sourced by OneFile at the time of publication. Things may have changed since then,
so this research is to be used at the reader's discretion. OneFile is not liable for any action taken based on this research.