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Apprentices stick to gender types

MORE than 234,000 students started work-based learning programmes in 20012. Almost half (46 per cent) began Foundation Modern Apprenticeships. The rest opted for Advanced Modern Apprenticeships (23 per cent), other training (21 per cent) or life skills programmes (11 per cent).

The number of young people starting AMAs - about 54,000 - was 25 per cent lower than in the previous three years. But take-up of FMAs increased again, albeit at a slower rate than in recent years. There were about 109,000 foundation starters last year, compared with 104,100 in 20001 and 88,300 in 199900. The 50,000 students starting other training programmes was similar to the previous year. Starts on life skills programmes were also similar to the previous year's at around 26,300.

Overall, there is an almost equal balance of males and females in work-based learning. However, there are wide variations in the percentages of men and women across different employment sectors. For example, 97 per cent of all trainees starting an AMA in childcare are female, as are 94 per cent of those studying hairdressing. But despite a decade of "girl power", only 2 per cent of advanced apprentices in the motor industry and 1 per cent of construction apprentices were female. Girls accounted for two-thirds of those starting AMAs in retailing. Only in hotel and catering apprenticeships was there an almost equal gender balance. The figures for FMAs show a remarkably similar gender distribution.

Ethnic minorities took up 4 per cent of the AMAs in 20012. But they were much more strongly represented in childcare (8 per cent) than in construction (1 per cent). Figures for the past four years show that ethnic-minority trainees lean towards service-related sectors.

What are we to make of such trends? One obvious conclusion is that a generation of equal-opportunity legislation and education programmes appears to have had little effect on traditional gender and racial divides in employment and training. Peer pressure still appears to rule.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and a director of Education Data Surveys. Email

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