Guidance fails to challenge gender bias in training, says EOC
Career advice too often involves only information that fits traditional ideas about which jobs are 'suitable' for one sex or the other, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission
Over the last 10 months, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has been examining some of the most strongly segregated sectors of the UK economy, including construction, plumbing, engineering, information and communication technology (men) and childcare (women).
In a report of its findings, it says that Modern Apprenticeships are not opening up enough opportunities for young women and men in non-traditional job areas.
As a result, they are contributing to UK skills shortages because recruiting more women could solve major skills shortfalls in sectors that traditionally have employed mostly men, such as engineering, plumbing and construction.
It wants the government to tackle the issue urgently, not least when it relaunches Modern Apprenticeships in the near future.
Sex and guidance
A survey of 1,000 people, carried out for the EOC by BMRB International, suggests that about half - 54% of women and 47% of men - think the advice they were given on leaving school was influenced by their sex.
"A hundred years ago," says EOC Chair Julie Mellor, "it was unusual for a woman to be a doctor or a lawyer, or for a man to be a nurse, but now it's commonplace. Yet our investigation shows that there are still real barriers preventing young women from choosing jobs in areas traditionally regarded as suitable only for men. This is bad for individuals, who can lose out on pay and work that best suits them, it's bad for employers, who lose out on talent and skills, and it's bad for the economy as a whole, which is being damaged by skills shortages."
In the survey, 67% of women aged 16 to 24 say they would have considered a wider range of career options had they been aware of differences in pay rates for jobs usually done by women and those usually done by men.
Figures for 2002-3 indicate that, in engineering, 6% of those taking Foundation Modern Apprenticeships were women, and 8% of those working in engineering jobs were women.
In construction, just 1% of the foundation courses were being taken by women - who also make up 1% of those working in the industry.
For full details of the report, visit the EOC website at: www.eoc.org.uk