Apprenticeships are open to those aged 16 and over, regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religious belief. Participation in apprenticeships has increased threefold over the last decade. A great deal of work is being, done to improve access further and increase gender equality in participation at all levels.
The percentage of young women following an apprenticeship framework at Level 3 rather than Level 2 has risen from 14 per cent. in 2003/04 to 18 per cent. in 2008/09. The percentage of young men on an advanced apprenticeship has remained at 31 per cent.
Recent activity to address gender inequalities in apprenticeships includes:
Creation of the National Apprenticeships Service (NAS) with end-to-end responsibility for apprenticeships delivery. NAS is under a same legal duty to promote equality and diversity and one of their objectives is to:
“Increase the number, quality and background of people applying for Apprenticeships.”
NAS work with employers to help them understand and be more responsive to the needs of learners in non-traditional occupations, and promote Apprenticeships to people from these groups.
NAS are working to develop resources on apprenticeships for careers education in schools and with information advice and guidance providers to encourage young people to think about apprenticeships in a non-stereotypical way.
Extending apprenticeships to over 25's has seen a greater number of women taking up an apprenticeship. 63 per cent. of people aged 25 and over starting an apprenticeship in 2008/09 were female.
We have invested £7 million to create Group Training Associations and Apprenticeship Training Agencies, with a specific remit to encourage atypical learners to take up apprenticeships.
We have also invested £2.3 million to create diversity pilots in targeted areas for gender, BME and disabled learners, those in non-traditional occupations and their employers.
NAS have set up an online mentoring platform through horse's mouth—open to all apprentices. 54 mentors registered so far.
The minimum wage for apprentices increased from £80 to £95 a week last year. It is young women—apprentices like those in hairdressing and care—who have benefitted most from this increase. On 25 March 2010 the Government announced their acceptance of the Low Pay Commission's recommendations concerning apprenticeship pay. This will mean that from 1 October 2010 the present exemption from the NMW for apprentices will be ended and all apprentices in the United Kingdom must be paid at least £2.50 an hour.
We have also committed £5 million to develop new frameworks at Levels 3 and 4 and we are creating up to 35,000 new advanced apprenticeship places for 19 to 30-year-olds over the next two years.