GCU team targets discrimination in Government apprenticeship scheme

01 February 2013

GCU team targets discrimination in Government apprenticeship scheme

Professor Ailsa McKay

Female apprentices in Scotland are being discriminated against by one of the Scottish Government’s flagship employment programmes, according to on-going research at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU).

Researchers in GCU’s Women in Scotland’s Economy Research Centre (WiSE) have recently been funded to develop a new method of identifying and ending public spending decisions which favour one gender over another. Research carried out by WiSE has shown that traditional apprenticeships such as those in engineering, construction and plumbing tend to be male dominated and are associated with better pay and completion rates than those in non-traditional areas.

GCU’s Professor Ailsa McKay, a leading feminist economist and Director of WiSE, said: “Overall, women are less likely than men to access modern apprenticeship training, particularly in the 16-19 age group, and, when they do take up the programme, they are concentrated in sectors associated with their gender, for example caring and service occupations. Pay is considerably less in these jobs and there is evidence to suggest that they are not as ‘valuable’ to employers as those in the traditional, male dominated, apprenticeships.

“Research suggests the modern apprenticeship programme displays severe occupational segregation with largely negative consequences for female apprentices. Furthermore, the traditional apprenticeships tend to last longer and require more public investment than the female-dominated, service-based apprenticeships."

The modern apprenticeship programme in Scotland is a national training programme which commands a considerable proportion of the Scottish education and training budget. Professor McKay and her team began researching the scheme in 2004 and the ESRC grant reflects the growing status of WiSE as the only academic centre in Scotland which focuses on gender and the economy. The team has received an Economic and Social Research Council Knowledge Exchange grant of £30,000 to fund the work, which will include the creation of a Gender Impact Analysis (GIA) tool to help public bodies measure the impact of spending decisions.

Professor Mckay added: “There is an assumption amongst policy makers that on the whole public spending decisions are gender neutral. In practice, however, this is often not the case and in some instances public sector spending may actually serve to reinforce existing patterns of gender inequality.

“A good example of that is the modern apprenticeship programme in Scotland, which research suggests is skewed towards investment in the human capital of men compared to women.

”Close the Gap, a Scottish Government funded partnership initiative focussed on promoting action to address the gender pay gap, will work with the academic research team in advising on the overall design of the project and in communicating findings."


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