Construction companies Balfour Beatty and Wates today, on International Women’s Day, took the Young Women’s Trust pledge to recruit more women to their apprenticeship programmes – and the charity is urging more employers to join them.
The charity’s research has found that young women are often shut out of male-dominated sectors like construction and engineering due to gender stereotypes. Young women who have gone into male-dominated industries have reported a lack of support and even outright gender discrimination. As demand in these areas increases, Skills Funding Agency and Department for Education data shows that the overall number of men starting apprenticeships is overtaking the number of women – a reverse of the recent trend.
Women instead tend to go into lower-paid sectors, such as care and beauty, contributing to an apprentice gender pay gap of 21 per cent – or £2,000 a year. They are less likely to receive training during their apprenticeship and less likely to get a job after.
By signing the Young Women’s Trust pledge to recruit more women apprentices, Wates and Balfour Beatty will be helping to break down the barriers that hold women back. Other employers that have signed the pledge include Asda, Barclays, Network Rail and the Builders Merchants Federation. Young Women’s Trust is calling on more companies to take positive action to make apprenticeships work for women.
Young Women’s Trust on Monday released guidance for employers to make apprenticeships more accessible. The report, Making Apprenticeships Work for Women: a good practice guide, recommends increasing apprentice pay, providing more part-time and flexible apprenticeships and reserving places on training courses for women. The report suggests smaller changes too, like adapting the language in job adverts to appeal to young women, explicitly welcoming women applicants and removing formal academic entry requirements for apprenticeships.
Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said:
“Young Women’s Trust is delighted that Wates and Balfour Beatty have pledged to support more young women into their construction apprenticeships.
“Young Women’s Trust research shows that too often women are shut out of the industry by gender stereotypes and a lack of support. We can only overcome this if companies take bold action to recruit young women and support them throughout their training – as these companies are doing.
“Small changes like adapting the language in job adverts to appeal to young women, explicitly welcoming women applicants and removing formal academic entry requirements for apprenticeships can make a big difference. Providing part-time and flexible apprenticeships would help young mothers in particular, who often have to balance care with work.
“Supporting young women into apprenticeships benefits women, businesses and the whole economy. We look forward to working with employers to make that a reality.”
Former construction apprentice Glynn Davies, a member of Young Women’s Trust’s Apprenticeship Working Group, said:
“I wanted to be a bricklayer, so I started an apprenticeship with City and Guilds. I was excited and highly motivated and I couldn’t wait to get muddy. At 17 I was yet to be exposed to society’s strong view of gender roles.
“From the moment I stepped onto the building site, I was automatically treated differently. There was a view among the other apprentices that I didn’t belong there. There was one other woman, but we were two out of 20 and it quickly became difficult to persevere. I experienced constant sexist remarks like ‘get us a cuppa’ or ‘be careful, you don’t want to break a nail’.
“I approached my course coordinator but the general response was, ‘it’s only banter’, or, my favourite, ‘don’t be so emotional’. It was irritating and emotionally draining, so I decided it would be more beneficial to terminate my apprenticeship and go straight into the labour market.”
Andrew Davies, Chief Executive of the Wates Group, said:
“Wates is committed to supporting emerging industry talent, irrespective of gender. If the industry is to meet the demand for skilled labour, we can only do this by accessing the full range of talent available.
“As one of the first companies in the UK to be awarded the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) Be Fair accreditation, we have made good progress in attracting more women to consider a career in construction but there is more that can be done. Pledging our support to Young Women’s Trust is an important step towards achieving this.”
Amanda Fisher, Chair of the Balfour Beatty Women in Business network and MD of Balfour Beatty Living Places, said:
“Improving the diversity of the people we employ is important to Balfour Beatty. We recognise that a business which fully reflects the society it serves will make us better placed to continue to deliver the most innovative infrastructure for our customers. Signing up to the Young Women’s Trust and launching the Women in Business network are some of a range of initiatives Balfour Beatty has employed to drive diversity within our business and the construction industry as a whole.”
Young Women’s Trust is now encouraging more employers to “be bold for change” – the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – and sign its pledge to support more young women onto apprenticeship schemes.