A new report by Young Women’s Trust to mark the midway point in the Government’s apprenticeship target has found that two in five apprentices spend more money completing their apprenticeship than they earn – and women face an eight per cent gender pay gap.
The report, ‘Young Women and Apprenticeships: Still Not Working’, which draws on a survey of 500 apprentices, found that, after paying for work clothes, travel and childcare, many apprentices have no money left to live on. More than half of apprentices, who can be paid as little as £3.50 an hour, struggle to cover basic living costs and transport to work. Many were put off doing an apprenticeship altogether because it wasn’t financially viable. While the Government strives to create three million apprenticeships by 2020, the latest official statistics show that the number of people starting apprenticeships has fallen.
The situation is harder for young women apprentices, who earn less and are more likely to have childcare costs. On average male apprentices earn £7.25 an hour, compared to women’s £6.67 – an annual difference of more than £1,000.
Pay differences are often due to gender segregation, which sees women going into sectors that are – wrongly – valued less by society and paid less. For every woman starting an apprenticeship in engineering there are 25 men, and engineering apprentices are paid on average £289 a week. Women are more likely to go into sectors like hairdressing and childcare, where the average weekly pay is £161 and £206 respectively.
Parents especially are struggling. Three in five apprentices with children say their apprenticeship costs more than they earn. A lack of part-time and flexible apprenticeships means many struggle to fit their family around work. 36 per cent of apprentices are receiving some form of state benefit while completing their training.
Young Women’s Trust is calling for urgent action to make apprenticeships work for women. The charity’s recommendations include:
- Significantly increasing the apprentice minimum wage, so more people can afford to undertake apprenticeships
Providing bursaries to support young people to train in key sectors.
- Working with local authorities to ensure apprentices are able to access childcare support even when working part-time, including ensuring local provision is adequately funded and available.
- Extending Care to Learn eligibility to apprentices and increasing the upper age limit to 25.
- Providing more apprenticeships on a flexible and part-time basis to help people balance family and work.
Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said:
“If the Government is to meet its target of creating three million apprenticeships by 2020 and plug the UK’s skills gap, it must take action to make apprenticeships work for young women.
“Young women can struggle to start and stay in apprenticeships due to low pay, a lack of support and gender stereotypes that shut them out of vital sectors like construction and engineering.
“Young Women’s Trust would like to see clear pathways made available to young people with low or no qualifications, so they can start apprenticeships and progress to the higher levels. Much greater provision of part-time and flexible apprenticeships would also help young mothers and carers in particular, who often have to balance care with work, to start and stay in apprenticeships.
“The Government must also raise the apprentice minimum wage if it is serious about supporting more young people into apprenticeships. Lots of young people tell us they can’t afford to do an apprenticeship; the £3.50 an hour minimum wage barely covers the bus to work, let alone bills and rent. It’s time the Government made apprenticeships work for young people.”