Research Paper 44: Gender Segregation, Apprenticeship, and the Raising of the Participation Age in England: are Young Women at a Disadvantage?


This paper argues that there is a continuing need for close monitoring of gender segregation in both the English labour market and in vocational education and training (VET) programmes. There is a new two-fold urgency for doing so in relation to the prospects facing young women. First, all young people in school in 2013 will be required to continue their participation in some form of government recognised education and/or training until they are 17 instead of the current age of 16. From 2015, this new ‘participation age’ will rise to 18. The numbers of young people remaining in full-time education from the age of 16 have been stuck under 70 percent since the mid-1990s. Latest data show the figure in 2012 was 67.7 percent. Young women are under-represented in work-based programmes and over-represented in full-time education compared with young men. To increase participation overall and meet the Raising the Participation Age (RPA) requirement, the numbers of males and females in both full-time education and work-based programmes (including apprenticeship) need to increase. Yet, as this paper indicates, young women are still far less likely than young men to access the best apprenticeships. Despite some reduction in the size of the gender imbalance in several of the service sectors since 2008-09, female apprentices are still much more likely to be found in the service sectors where pay, qualification levels and career prospects tend to be lower.