Today (20 May) the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (the Institute) has announced that it will trial the use of software to check for gender biased terminology in its apprenticeship standards.

The initiative is a key recommendation of the Institute’s first review of digital apprenticeship standards. This review covered 12 well-established apprenticeships in the digital sector, ensuring they are still current and delivering for a modern workforce.

First and foremost, the review checked that the standards are able to satisfy the high expectations of the employer and the apprentice  for training, as well as the requirements set out by the Institute for a high-quality apprenticeship.  It also ensured that there was no overlap or gaps between the standards.

As part of the review the Institute has recommended that future digital apprenticeships should use software that checks for gender biased terminology, that may dissuade certain groups from applying for apprenticeships.

Gerry Berragan, Chief Executive of the Institute, said:

Studies have shown that the language used in job adverts can inadvertently dissuade certain groups from applying – particularly women. The Institute plays an integral role in the development of apprenticeships and we want to ensure that we play our part in encouraging a diverse range of applications. Apprenticeships are an interesting, engaging route to excelling in a variety of careers and we want them to benefit everyone – regardless of gender.

Jo Morfee, who sits on the Institute’s Digital Route Panel and is Co-founder and Director of InnovateHer, is supporting the trial. She said:

I’ve always been passionate about championing diversity in apprenticeships and the tech sector as a whole. Nationally only 17% of tech jobs are female. Through working closely with our corporate partners we’ve discovered that the use of gender-neutral language has the potential to have a huge impact on the outcome. One of our partners saw a 40% increase in female applicants for senior data analyst roles as a result of changing the language they used. I’ve advocated for this approach and learning to be applied to how we design apprenticeship content and I’m very pleased that the Institute is taking this on board. I believe it will make a big difference to the levels of gender diversity we see in the digital apprenticeships.

Steven Williams, Tech Talent Acquisition Partner at Shop Direct, which owns online retail brands including, said:

The language we use when recruiting future talent - right from the earliest stages - plays a vital role in building a diverse and inclusive workforce. We were an early adopter of gender decoding software and the results have been staggering, we have seen a 40% uplift in female applicants for data and analytical roles, which have been historically mostly male. Gender decoding within recruitment is not a model we invented and it’s not new, but it’s something we’ve put into practice, in a common-sense way. I am now delighted to see that the Institute is trialling its use too.

The digital sector is the first to be subject to a review by the Institute. The reviews provide an opportunity to ensure that apprenticeship standards remain high quality and relevant to employers.

At a launch event today in London the Institute announced its plan to start reviews for four additional sectors before the end of the year. These are agriculture, environment and animal care; hair & beauty; creative & design; and engineering & manufacturing.

The Institute published its recommendations for updating 12 apprenticeship standards for the digital sector at a launch event in London today.

The recommendations are that:

  • Nine apprenticeship standards should be revised  and reconsider the Institute’s criteria  around mandatory qualifications; and
  • Three can be withdrawn and the content combined into other existing standards.

More detail on the outcomes of the review can be found in the final report that has been published on the Institute’s website.

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