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Flagship lacks broad appeal

Women and young people from ethnic minorities are seriously under-represented in a training scheme designed to end the stereotypes of white male apprentices, writes Lucy Ward.

Unpublished data from the Department for Education and Employment shows ethnic minority trainees joining the Modern Apprenticeship scheme last year made up just 2 per cent of the total, while only slightly more than a quarter of modern apprentices were women.

The figures show the Government has a long way to go to ensure Modern Apprenticeships live up to early promises.

Early evidence that the programme was not fulfilling Government pledges of broad appeal came last autumn. A report commissioned by the then Employment Department and carried out by consultants Ernst Young revealed that the vast majority of apprentices were white males. It prompted junior education and employment minister James Paice to admit ethnic minority group recruitment had been disappointing.

The scheme subsidised employers through training and enterprise councils to offer school-leavers high quality training.

The new data, leaked to the Unemployment Unit's journal Working Brief is the first to break down the proportions of women and ethnic minorities in each training area. It shows young women are still concentrated in service industries such as health and social care - where they make up 95 per cent of the total - business administration, hairdressing and travel.

Men dominate in manufacturing, with women making up only 3 per cent of people starting in engineering and 2 per cent in plumbing. Young people from ethnic minorities are not represented at all in seven areas including electricity and agriculture.

A report commissioned by the DFEE on equal opportunities in the pilot year of the Modern Apprenticeship scheme reveals the overriding concern of those implementing the scheme was "to get the prototypes moving".

The report, Equal Opportunities in Modern Apprenticeships: Lessons from the Prototypes, speculates that Government offices did stress equal opportunities enough when launching the scheme.

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