I read an article in The Engineer recently, “Unlocking engineering’s appeal to girls by Stuart Nathan”. One piece of information caught my eye; only 4% of engineering apprentices are women. As a woman who has just finished their engineering apprenticeship, this statistic shocked me. This means that, per statistics, in a group of 15 engineering apprentices, only one is a woman. Often I think that because we have become so used to hearing statistics, we become immune to what it is they mean, and the power that they have.
Having said that, during my apprenticeship, out of roughly 77 engineering students at my local training provider, Hereford & Worcester Group Training Association, only 4 women started an engineering apprenticeship. Of those 4, only 2 completed their apprenticeship. Of the 77 students, 67 completed their apprenticeship, 7 did not finish their apprenticeship, and 3 are still working on their apprenticeship to finish their framework.
I am not disputing what Stuart Nathan is stating by any means, but I wanted to find out for myself whether “4% of apprentices are female” could be the case. I typed in “percentage of female engineering apprentices” into a search engine and several in depth reports from a few years ago jumped out at me.
Top of the list…the Woman’s Engineering society with some interesting statistics. “In 2013/14, women accounted for only 3.8% of Engineering apprenticeship starts and 1.7% of Construction Skills starts.” I am hoping that three years on, we would see a rise from 3.8%. Much more information came up during my search. This included information on apprenticeships in general, in roles and vacancies in engineering sectors, STEM subjects and the influential roles of parents, teachers, and careers advisors.
By not going into too much detail, the feeling I got was that by 2022, if things didn’t change soon, the engineering and STEM sectors were going to be in real trouble. This, however, is where organisations such as Worcester Local Enterprise Partnership, and Worcester County Council, started to make a difference. These organisations are working with schools, training providers, and companies to try and turn this set of events around. But they cannot do this alone. They require input from students, schools, and industry alike.
As a parent, uncle, aunt, grandparent, teacher, careers advisor, employer, or member of government, surely it is also your duty to help inform the next generation of both boys and girls that a career in engineering, or any other industry, is attractive and obtainable? Is it unreasonable to say that it is you who can show them the different ways of getting into engineering and other industries, be it via an apprenticeship, further education, or higher education?
Something I feel also needs to be addressed is the information students are receiving before they decide on their apprenticeship pathway. Perhaps some reasons behind only 67 out of 77 students finishing their apprenticeship in my year was that they were disillusioned about what they were letting themselves in for, or they could not easily pull out all the facts before deciding on an apprenticeship. In a 2015 document “ Careers Guidance and Inspiration in Schools” was published by the Department for Education. In this it states that “High quality, independent careers guidance is also crucial in helping pupils emerge from school more fully rounded and ready for the world of work.” It also states that schools should “Widen access to advice on options available post-16, for example, apprenticeships, entrepreneurialism or other vocational routes alongside the more traditional A levels and university route. This should also be giving other post-16 providers opportunities to engage with pupils on school premises.”
But perhaps we should be considering targeting children pre-16 with non-biased, well-rounded careers advice. At a younger age, children, and their parents, are potentially more receptive to the idea of apprenticeships. Also, if children start to pick up this terminology at an earlier age, it becomes second nature to speak about it at school with their friends.
So now it is up to you, I’d like you to think about your friends, students, and children. Are they getting the best information they can to make their future career choice? Maybe there is something you can do to help further the cause for the next generation of engineer.
Until next time! For regular updates, follow @No1_apprentice
Some useful links to reports and websites about apprenticeships in England can be found below: