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Guest post – Emma Bolger on tackling gender imbalance in Modern Apprenticeships
Emma Bolger is National Training Programmes Equality Adviser at Skills Development Scotland where she focuses on equality in Modern Apprenticeships, particularly for young women.We asked Emma to tell us a bit about her job. Here’s what she had to say.
My job is to challenge the belief that there are ‘jobs for boys’ or ‘jobs for girls.’ That’s why it is great to be supporting the Equality Challenge Fund project at Ayrshire College – a positive, dynamic and inspiring campaign aimed at increasing the interest of girls and women in science, technology and engineering apprenticeships, and targeting gender balance in these sectors.
Why focus on women?
I am often asked the question ‘Why does the focus always seem to be on women?’ There are three reasons.
First, in relation to gender, certain sectors recruit more men than women and vice versa. The lower take up of roles in some sectors, by either gender, is known as occupational segregation.
Secondly, women take up fewer places on Modern Apprenticeships in sectors in which the greatest investment is made in training (and attract a higher salary on completion) such as engineering, meaning young women receive less government funding when embarking on their career journey.
This is unfair.
Thirdly, the focus is also primarily on women because of another aspect of occupational segregation – the low number of women progressing to senior roles in all sectors.
The good news is the picture is changing.
Our aim is to tackle the gender imbalance in Modern Apprenticeships through work with partners such as colleges. Through positive action projects and awareness raising activity, Skills Development Scotland and partners like Ayrshire College will continue to address lower uptake on national training programmes like apprenticeships and play our part in improving labour market equality.
We want to see a large increase in the number of females applying for and undertaking apprenticeships in traditionally male dominated areas. This is one of the targets in our Equalities Action Plan for Modern Apprenticeships.
We also hope to increase the number of men taking up careers traditionally considered for women, and welcome other campaigns that Ayrshire College is leading like Men into Care and Man in the Mirror.
Equality Challenge Fund – Ayrshire College videos
Ayrshire College’s Equality Challenge Fund project aims to change perceptions about engineering and ICT amongst young women by raising awareness of the rewarding career options available and what apprentices actually do in the workplace.
The hashtag #WhatIActuallyDo is used to convey a day in the life of a female STEM apprentice. Women and men are seen working in teams together in high quality videos that show careers in STEM to be what they really are – exciting, dynamic and full of opportunity for all.
I was delighted to join Ayrshire College Chair Willie Mackie, Vice Principal Jackie Galbraith and Business Development Director Stuart Millar at Spirit Aerosystems to launch the video series, and to meet Anna Manson, one of the apprentices featured on the videos.
The Ayrshire College Equality Challenge Fund project will be celebrated at a major national event later this year.