How to get more women in apprenticeships
The PR push to get more women into STEM careers has been rolling on for years. But despite an almost universal desire from industry to achieve gender equality, the vast majority of STEM-subject apprenticeships are still being taken up by men.
Multiple big name brands like Thames Water have unveiled ambitious apprenticeship schemes targeted specifically at women in recent years.
But the latest reports show that the number of women starting STEM subject apprenticeships still won’t equal male take-up until 2044.
The figures make uncomfortable reading:
- In total, only 14% of apprenticeship starts in STEM subjects were taken up by women
- 70,000 fewer women than men started STEM apprenticeships in the last year
- 457,700 fewer women than men started STEM apprenticeships in the last six years
- 64,760 women started STEM apprenticeships since 2016/17 as opposed to 522,460 men – eight times fewer women than men.
In the past, apprenticeships were viewed as being male-dominated, and the women who did enrol stuck to traditionally 'female' oriented programmes – such as childcare, beauty and hairdressing.
Unfortunately, that position continues to some extent, with 75,500 more women than men starting apprenticeships in non-STEM subjects between 2020/21 and 2021/22.
This ongoing gender split between job functions is worrying, as the UK continues to grapple with serious, long-term skills shortages across STEM industries.
Thankfully, there is some good news.
In 2013, women made up only 2% of starts in construction, electro-technical and vehicle sectors. While not directly comparable, 14% of starters in STEM apprenticeships are now female. This figure is arguably still too low - but it’s a step in the right direction.
Nevertheless, it’s still going to be a long road to achieve the vision set out by corporate businesses - aiming for gender equality and a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination, and where diversity, equity and inclusivity are celebrated.
As a leading apprenticeship management expert, here are four relatively quick ways you can strive towards those goals:
Offer part-time programmes
Only 10% of apprentices work fewer than 30 hours a week. This can be a barrier for women – particularly those with caring responsibilities who may need to spend more time away from the workplace. By offering part-time courses, you could open up apprenticeships programmes to women while supporting gender diversity – and that’s a win-win.
It’s a sad truth that fewer women enter skills competitions than men. Encourage all of your staff to go for gold. If women see their peers winning trophies and becoming role models, they're more likely to realise the exciting opportunities on offer, and enter competitions themselves.
Many of us have unconscious biases. Without realising, some people favour male applicants over female – even when they have the same qualifications. Make sure you keep this is in mind while you're recruiting. You could even cover names on CVs so you’re judging candidates purely on merit.
If you use a learning software to deliver your apprenticeships, affords your staff flexibility to work anytime, anywhere – whatever their work, leisure or family commitments.
For more ideas on upping your intake of female apprentices, download our free guide
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.