`Inflexible men' are losing out
The research follows on from recent national figures released by the Department for Education and Employment which show that men are falling behind in the training and jobs stakes. These statistics, however, give no indication of the reasons behind the trends.
But now two research projects carried out by North Yorkshire TEC have found that the decline of traditional male trades in the North-east is coupled with a rise of jobs taken largely by women.
The research also suggests that men are failing to take advantage of new opportunities because they expect to receive much of their training in the workplace. They leave decisions on a career change too late and miss out on college training.
Researchers studied take-up of part-time adult retraining programmes in five of the largest colleges in the Yorkshire and Humberside during the peak enrolment weeks for the new academic year.
Despite growing awareness among men of the need to retrain for new industries such as leisure and information technology, the increase in women recruited was far higher.
Recruitment trends this year mirror those from last year and show that women out-number men on courses by as much as two to one.
Peter Stratton, a Leeds University psychologist, said men were falling behind because of their different approach to life. "Research shows that women are more likely to plan ahead and prepare for what they want to do.
"Men are more impulsive, looking for activities that provide high levels of sensation, taking risks and taking things as they come rather than planning. "
Because they failed to plan, they too often found that when they decided on a course, the places were all taken," he said. Another factor affecting college enrolments was to do with the different experiences of men and women at school.
"Boys are more likely to have had trouble academically - especially with reading - and generally find school more uncomfortable than girls do. As adults they are more likely to find it difficult to read things they don't find immediately interesting.
"Men may well be put off by the demands of reading in adult courses and by the needs for communication. Women are more verbally fluent," he said, adding that eight times more men than women suffered from stammering.
Part of the TEC research analysed the attitudes of 750 employees made redundant with the closure of ABB, a large Yorkshire carriage works. When TEC-sponsored training groups pulled out all the stops, 200 men took a range of courses from confidence-building to university degrees.
Tony Walton, a trade union works convenor at ABB, retrained as a welfare support worker after a reluctant start. "If you look at ABB, it was a typical male-dominated industry," he said. "Men went into their jobs from school and expected to stay there until they retired."
But the training groups noted a strong reluctance in men compared with women.
Sandra Furby, manager of Future Prospects, a training agency, said: "Many of the men we have worked with in areas such as writing CVs, getting qualified and retraining were not keen to be involved at first. Once we persuaded them though, their response was wonderful."
The researchers said their findings indicated the extent to which colleges and the TECs had to take positive action in recruiting men for retraining if Britain was to meet the national targets for education and training.