Young Women in Apprenticeships: still not working?

Are the new apprenticeship measures doing enough to support young women into work? The Young Women’s Trust launched the follow up to their 2005 Making Apprenticeships Work for Young Women report last week with some interesting findings and a number of recommendations put forward.

The report finds that not enough has been done to address the underlying issues that have often seen women miss out on the best of what apprenticeships have to offer. The Young Women’s trust are using the mid-point of the Government’s timeline to create three million apprenticeships by 2020 as an appropriate moment to take stock of what progress has been made.

Completed with support from ComRes the new report, Young Women & Apprenticeships: Still not working?, contains polling from 500 current and former apprentices.

The research shows:

  • Low pay limits participation: 2 in 5 apprentices receive less in wages than it costs them to do their apprenticeship with many being forced to drop-out or put off choosing an apprenticeship in the first place.
  • Male apprentices continue to earn more than women: The gender pay gap for apprentices continues with women earning an average £6.67 per hour compared to £7.25 for men.
  • Gender segregation limits the potential of apprenticeships: Women apprentices remain focussed in relatively few sectors. In key sectors such as engineering men outnumber women 25 to 1. The continued failure to address the under representation of women in these sectors limits the potential for apprenticeship to solve the skills crisis that means employers in certain sectors are struggling to fill vacancies.
  • There are still too few part-time apprenticeship opportunities: Fewer than 1 in 10 apprentices work under 30 hours per week. The lack of part-time opportunities is particularly a barrier to women, especially those with caring responsibilities, with many finding the path to training opportunities blocked as a result.

The good news?

The report did highlight that the reputation of apprenticeships is growing with young people who chose an apprenticeship seeing them as a positive route.

 Polling shows that 85% of apprentices believe that apprenticeships offer good opportunities to develop professional skills and could lead to good careers.

The report also highlighted that almost 90% of non-apprentices polled said they felt that apprenticeships helped to develop skills and offered positive career pathways.

In the year 2016/17 there were more women who began an apprenticeship than men although women apprentices were also more likely to be older. Of the 268,000 female apprenticeship starts, 136,000 (51%) were over 25.

For men, 87,000 of 240,000 starts were by those aged over 25 (36%). Whilst apprenticeships can be a valuable route back into work or provide progression route for older women, this evidence suggests young women are not finding suitable opportunities in the same way as young men.

In addition to the gender segregation outlined above, along with low pay and a lack of part- time opportunities there is a need to look beyond the number of people starting apprenticeships to understand how successfully the ongoing reforms are playing out.

We encourage you to read the full report to find the full research and recommendations

Summary of Recommendations

Make apprenticeships affordable

The Government should:

  • Significantly increase the apprentice national minimum wage, so more people can afford to undertake apprenticeships.
  • Invest in enforcement to tackle the growth of non- compliance with the apprenticeship minimum wage.
  • Consider the potential for interest-free maintenance loans to support young people to train.
  • Provide resources for bursaries to support young people to train in key sectors.
  • Work with local authorities to ensure apprentices are able to access childcare support even when working part-time, including ensuring local provision is adequately funded and available.
  • Extend the eligibility for receipt of Care to Learn to apprentices and increase the upper age limit from 20 to 25.

Make apprenticeships more diverse

  • Reinstate the Apprenticeship Diversity Good Practice Fund to support employers and training providers to implement positive action schemes with payment being contingent on demonstrating increases in diversity.
  • Provide additional payments to employers and training providers of apprenticeships for women in male-dominated sectors.
  • Provide bursaries for women taking apprenticeships in male-dominated sectors and for apprentices from lower socio-economic groups to increase gender diversity and promote social mobility.
  • Ensure there are adequate entry points at level 2 and good progression routes to higher level apprenticeships to ensure those with lower qualifications can still benefit from apprenticeships. This could involve close integration with new T-levels to ensure a cohesive vocational route for young people of all abilities.
  • Provide additional resources for schools to provide independent careers advice, expanding that requirement so schools have a duty to provide information about a range of options with explicit reference to apprenticeships.
  • Ensure publicly available data on apprenticeships can be analysed in terms of multiple characteristics, for example gender and age, gender and ethnicity or gender and apprenticeship framework.

Ofsted Should:

  • Include measures around successful completion of apprenticeships for former pupils when assessing schools to encourage them to promote a wider range of options beside academic routes.
  • Ensure that providers are taking steps to promote equality and diversity through their apprenticeship provision by including an assessment of diversity in its inspection reports.

The Institute for Apprenticeships should:

  • Take a lead in monitoring diversity and holding employers and providers to account where progress isn’t being made.
  • Include a full assessment of the diversity in apprenticeships in its annual report, along with recommendations to improve diversity alongside any actions it has taken itself.

Employers should:

  • Consider whether, in sectors where it can be shown that the number of women undertaking apprenticeships in any given sector is very low (for example Engineering, IT or construction), they can take positive action to increase the participation of women. This could include: setting targets, reserving places on training courses, providing work experience opportunities, explicitly welcoming applications from women, providing mentors or adapting the language used in job adverts.
  • Publish targets for the ratio of male to female apprentices along with a strategy for meeting these targets.
  • Publish the number of apprentices they employ, completion rates and destinations with the figures broken down by age, gender, ethnicity, disability, apprenticeship level and role.

Schools & Training Providers Should:

  • Track the destinations of students over an extended period of time, including tracking future employment and earnings prospects in order to assess quality and increase the information available to potential apprentices about routes with the best outcomes.

Make apprenticeships flexible:

The Government should:

• Renew guidance on part-time apprenticeships and promote the potential for part-time apprenticeships.

Public sector bodies including local authorities and central Government should:

• Take a leading role in increasing part-time opportunities in their own apprenticeships schemes.


  • If you are an employer considering how you can be more youth friendly take a look at our community member offering
  • If you are a young person seeking support contact take a look here 

For further information: Contact us by phone on 01536 680916 or email us at

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