National statistics on apprenticeships and traineeships in England published by the Department for Education in January 2020 tell us that the number of men and women who started apprenticeships in 2018/19 was the same. Despite this commendable parity, unpicking the statistics reveals differentials in pay, sector representation and the progression apprentices make after they finish their apprenticeship.

Take-up: The fall in apprenticeship registrations was widely reported following the introduction of the levy in 2017 but the drop was disproportionate; 30.3% fewer starts for women but only 16.9% fewer for men. Although the 2018/19 figures show a re-balancing of the numbers, disparity remains in terms of the sectors into which males and females are recruited and this brings inequalities around pay, permanent employment and progression opportunities.

Sector representation: Female apprentices work in fewer sectors than their male counterparts. Research by the Young Womens’ Trust (YWT) “Making Apprenticeships Work for Young Women” in 2016 found that 25% of all female apprentices work in Health and Social Care and 14% in Business Administration. Only 6% of male apprentices work in Health and Social Care and 6% in Business Administration. Females mainly work across only five sectors whilst male apprentices mainly work across 11 sectors. Later research produced in 2018 by YWT reported that for every one female apprentice in construction there were 50 males, and in engineering one female for every 25 male apprentices.

Pay: The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy produces a biennial Apprenticeship Pay Survey which in January 2020 reported that the pay gap for level 2 and 3 apprentices is widening. In 2016 the gap was 3.6% but by 2018/19 it stood at 6%. Male apprentices were more likely than female apprentices to have worked overtime (64% compared with 57% respectively). At Levels 2 and 3 apprentices in receipt of non-compliant pay was more common among women (21%) compared with men (17%). Male apprentices were more likely to have received an increase in pay (64%) compared with female apprentices (42%).

The picture around pay is compounded by the fact that the sectors where female apprentices are most highly represented are often those that attract lower rates of pay, are arguably less valued and offer less stable employment prospects.

Progression and prospects: In recent years the ambitious reform of apprenticeships was predicated on the notion of apprenticeships as transformative; offering real prospects for economic and social mobility. Yet this too has demonstrable inequalities. Young men are more likely to be engaged as apprentices as new starters in their sector. In 2016/17, 51% of female apprentices starting apprenticeships were over 25 years old, whilst only 36% of males were over 25. Women are more often already employed by their employer at the commencement of their apprenticeship. This means that there is a much lower earnings payoff (the expected additional annual income achieved through completion of an apprenticeship). They are not at the start of their careers which is where opportunity for economic mobility is most impactful. (Union Learn, Tackling apprenticeship gender inequality, December 2018).

The issue of the sustainability of employment at the end of an apprenticeship is salient here. Young women are less likely to obtain a permanent position when they finish their apprenticeship. There is some good news; achievement rates for men and women are similar but there is a paucity of data to facilitate closer analysis of achievement and progression by sector. 

There are calls from many of the organisations cited in this article to improve the collection of data. Others, for example, the National Society of Apprentices advocate increased funding for apprenticeship providers that undertake and meet equality impact agreements or gender action plans (2019 Manifesto). The National Apprenticeship Service has set up the Apprenticeships Diversity Champions Network.

The need to address equality and diversity more broadly is bringing the notion of inclusivity to the fore. Recruitment of apprentices needs to follow the same good practice that is standard in the recruitment of graduates, for example. Positive action must include building greater flexibilities into apprenticeships especially the provision of and promotion of part time apprenticeships. Equally, the inspectorate can bring pressure to bear by raising the visibility of high-quality careers advice and better reporting of destinations. It would also be good to see gender pay gap reporting include a separate category for apprentice pay. 

In conclusion, those of us working in the apprenticeship sector can celebrate that the number of men and women starting apprenticeships is “equal”, but we must be vigilant that this apparent equality is not disguising a gender gap that adversely leaves women disadvantaged.

Join the discussion in the Promote-Ed Forums

You may also be interested in these articles:


Advertiser Skyscrapers

Video Advert

Newsroom Activity

Sarfraz Ahmed commented on Preparing learners for the jobs of the future post pandemic 6 hours 52 minutes ago

Cindy what an engaging article appropriate for our modern times. Definitely will share with others.

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page