Women Can Inspire Other Women To Be Apprentices

This article was written by Sophie Oak, Degree Apprentice Events Manager at Gaia Innovation Ltd.

Gaia Innovation Ltd take positive action to address the UK skills deficit. However it is unlikely that this skills deficit within the apprenticeship sector will be addressed unless traditionally male-dominated sectors hire more women. As a female degree apprentice who works predominantly around recruiting apprentices through our Search for a Star programme, I notice that the number of males who apply for apprenticeship roles is higher than their female counterparts. Statistics show that ‘men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them’, which suggests that significant numbers of females lose out on positions because they simply don’t apply for the role. 

In a 2015 study carried out by UCL Institute of Education it was suggested that women are more likely to dominate apprenticeships within the service-based sector, in which the UK economy has seen huge growth. These service apprenticeships tend to have lower pay, entrance qualifications and career development prospects, yet a huge 87,000 apprenticeship places were filled by females in the Health and Social Care industry in 2016/17. This suggests that although young women are accessing apprenticeships in areas such as this, or Beauty Therapy for example, they tend not to access higher level apprenticeships in other sectors. This could be because they feel that they don’t meet the criteria for these sectors closely enough to apply.    

Furthermore, studies show that women often lack confidence when it comes to leaving full-time education and established friendship groups, and routes such as A Levels allow the opportunity for friendship groups to stay together, whether this be within the school environment or in the career choices they decide to pursue. Kitty Drake, writing for mental help handbook Mee Two, states that ‘females are conditioned to take relationship breakdowns as a personal failure’, suggesting that if a friendship disconnects following a change in career pathway, women may view this as a personal failure, as opposed to an opportunity to progress along an alternative pathway. Many embark upon the apprenticeship route as an independent venture which can be viewed as an alternative to full-time academic study. However pursuing the apprenticeship route allowed me to form friendships with people in a similar position to myself, either through academic study or through my role as Events Manager. 

When discussing career pathways with my own social group it appeared that the majority of my female peers hadn’t considered an apprenticeship due to the lack of information surrounding this particular career route. Given that women lack confidence when leaving full time education if apprenticeship information is limited for many sectors, this may potentially affect the confidence surrounding apprenticeships and be seen as somewhat of a more challenging career pathway. 

New pathways create room for progression opportunities and with that comes new experiences, which include meeting like-minded people who often share similar interests. As women, it is critical that we support one another with our career progression opportunities and unless we take action to apply for roles within male dominated sectors to access the secure and well paid employment they offer, we will struggle to address the gender balance therein.