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Sector Skills Councils have the lead role at the national level to identify the skills employers need and to raise investment in skills. Each SSC is required to produce an employer-led Sector Skills Agreement setting out an action plan to increase skill levels, including an analysis of the diversity of each sector SSCs identify the factors behind the gender, age, ethnicity and disability profiles of their industries. This analysis informs SSC strategies, targets and measures to redress imbalances. SSCs also have a more direct role in encouraging employers to consider recruiting non-traditional sources of labour. For example, the Women and Work Sector Pathways initiative is testing new career and recruitment routes, helping women into sectors and occupations where they are currently under-represented.
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A quarter of a million apprentices, of whom 47 per cent. are female, are currently in learning. The number of female apprentices has steadily increased as more apprenticeships have been offered, including in more non-traditional sectors. The Learning and Skills Council has taken action to promote equality and diversity in apprenticeships, including equality-proofed promotional materials to attract apprentices from a wide range of backgrounds.
An internal review of apprenticeships is taking place to address the strategic challenges of delivering the entitlement to an apprenticeship place for every suitably qualified young person by 2013 and of reaching 400,000 apprenticeships in England by 2020. The review will also address the equality and diversity challenges for apprenticeships set out in recent reports from the Equal Opportunities Commission, Women at Work Commission and the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs. The review concludes in November.