Men are twice as likely to be encouraged to take an apprenticeship as women, according to new research from the City & Guilds Group. A survey of more than 2000 young professionals showed that a third of men were encouraged to take an apprenticeship in school. Just 17% of women received the same advice, suggesting that girls are still being held back by societal perceptions of the ‘right’ career path for them.

The gender divide was also found in the 18-24 age group, in spite of high youth unemployment levels. Only 23% of women in this age group had been advised about apprenticeships, compared with 32% of men. The data suggests that repeated warnings about the need to diversify the workforce still appear to be going unnoticed.

The research revealed that men and women were advised to pursue entirely different occupations, often correlating with long-held gender stereotypes. Whilst men were more likely to be encouraged to consider IT and engineering as a career path, women were directed towards nursing, care and teaching.

These findings support recent research by the TUC and the National Apprenticeship Service which found that although more women are starting apprenticeships, gender stereotyping is dissuading young women from pursuing careers in traditionally male industries.

The difference between the advice men and women received was particularly notable in the construction industry, where only 0.6% of women were encouraged to make it their career compared to 12% of men. A similar pattern was seen in the engineering sector; men were four times more likely to be encouraged to study engineering than their female classmates (see appendix one for more information).

The findings, released ahead of National Apprenticeship Week and National Careers Week, also show that university was the route most encouraged in schools, with 42% of men and 46% of women advised to get a degree. However many regretted their choices; over half (54%) of the young professionals surveyed said that if they were leaving school now, they would choose a different career path.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • Parents hold the most influence when it comes to choosing a career (60%). This was followed by teachers and work experience (both 44%)
  • A quarter of men (25%) were encouraged to go straight into work versus 21% of women
  • 22% of men and 32% of women received no guidance on pursuing any specific industry

Chris Jones, Chief Executive of the City & Guilds Group said: “With skills gaps blighting so many industries in the UK, alongside stubbornly high levels of youth unemployment, we should be worried if industries, or indeed different training programmes, are regarded as ‘male’ or ‘female’. This needs to change. Young people need to know about all of the career opportunities available, so that no career is closed off to them.

“Apprenticeships are available in so many industries – from horticulture to aerospace; animal care to social media. They’re certainly not ‘just for the boys.”

Former apprentice Tiana Locker, who is now Apprentice Connect Ambassador at City & Guilds, said: ‘These research findings really resonate with my own experiences. At school, I was actively dissuaded from taking an apprenticeship and pushed towards university to study teaching. The only person that gave me advice about apprenticeships was my friend who had taken a hairdressing apprenticeship. But that wasn’t appealing to me as I was more interested in business qualifications, so I struggled to find the right advice. I would have benefited from more comprehensive careers advice during school, as in my experience they tended to fall back on outdated stereotypes. It’s definitely important that girls and boys understand the full range of career opportunities available to them.’

Industry Total Men Women
Building services (construction, plumbing, utilities, electrical installation) 6% 12% <1%
Engineering 11% 18% 4%
Automotive 4% 8% <1%
Retail and customer service 9% 9% 9%
Nursing and care professions (eg childcare, nursing, social care) 11% 4% 17%
Creative professions (floristry, fashion, hair & beauty) 7% 5% 8%
HR / personnel management 4% 4% 4%
Finance 11% 14% 8%
Hospitality / catering / tourism 7% 6% 8%
IT 17% 26% 8%
Marketing / PR / advertising 5% 6% 5%
Teaching 12% 8% 16%
Medical / dentistry 10% 9% 12%
Law 8% 8% 9%
Other 5% 5% 6%
No industry 27% 22% 32%