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Understanding the under-representation of women in engineering apprenticeships

Women are under-represented in many STEM areas, but within the engineering sector the gender imbalance is particularly stark. Just 9% of the current engineering workforce is female, contributing to wider gender pay inequalities and posing significant challenges to the supply of skills into the economy. Successfully tackling this imbalance will require the efforts of a wide range of stakeholders, including government, employers and education providers; and the effective use of all available levers. One such lever is the apprenticeship programme, where the government has made a commitment to achieve 3 million apprenticeship starts by 2020. However, while more than half of all apprentices are women; this overall figure masks significant gender segregation. In 2014/15 just 600 of 17,500+ engineering and manufacturing technologies (EMT) apprenticeship starts were female – fewer than 3.5%. Unless this is addressed, we face a significant risk that rather than widening opportunities for women and girls, the apprenticeship programme could instead further exacerbate the gender bias within the sector. In order to help better understand and tackle gender stereotypes in STEM apprenticeships, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation commissioned Learning and Work Institute (L&W) to conduct an analysis of the government’s (SFA) Find an Apprenticeship dataset. Find an Apprenticeship is the official website for searching and applying for apprenticeships in England. Although not all applications are submitted through the system, nor all opportunities advertised on it, the dataset covers a substantial number across a breadth of sectors and locations. It allows for the analysis of a large volume of records, with a combination of variables and records of unsuccessful applications not available elsewhere.