From education to employment

Plan for Broader Participation in Apprenticeships Welcomed by Engineering Union Conference

The issue of gender discrimination is something of a hot topic at present, with the Chancellor of the Exchequer highlighting the gender pay gap in his budget announcement this week.

Gordon Brown MP said that the current pay gap was “unacceptable” and pledged to address the matter further. The fact that this was deemed to be crucial enough to be a key component of Mr. Brown’s budget statement in the House of Commons is further evidence that the discrimination based on gender that has plagued society for decades has yet to be banished.

Pledge to Address Segregation in Engineering

The British Engineering Union, GMB, have committed themselves to tackling segregation in Engineering Apprenticeships at a conference held this week. Figures released indicate that the issue needs to be tackled swiftly. In 2004 and 2005, the National Employer Service of the Learning and Skill Council (LSC) responsible for organising apprentice training for the large employers in England trained a total of 32,481 apprentices. Of these, only 8,133 were female across all sectors, with only one in four apprentices gaining their qualifications last year being female.

These figures relate to a large number of engineering and technical qualifications. Across England, the position was less clear cut. A total apprentice population of 232,517 apprentices were trained, of which some 124,081 were male and 108,436 (or 47%) were female. These figures indicate a persistent segregation in traditional craft trades, with the Women and Work Commission highlighting this very issue in their report last month.

GMB National Secretary Calls for Change

At the conference, the GMB National Secretary called for drastic changes to fight this gender discrimination. Keith Hazlewood, the GMB National Secretary for Engineering told the conference: “There are skill shortages in engineering. This is partly the result of employers not considering 50% of the population for selection for training.

“Experience has shown that where women are recruited to traditional craft job as in gas, conditions have improved for the whole workforce,” he continued. “GMB endorses the call of the Women and Work Commission for the large employers to tackle this segregation of job training- as part of Sector Skills Agreement – and welcomes the measures in yesterdays budget to help make this a reality.”

This is a laudable goal, and one which the vast majority of the public and the industry will be eager to support. However, it is symptomatic of the remaining deep seated prejudices that permeate society that this is still a problem, even in the so ““ called “enlightened” days of the 21st Century. We have a long way to go before people are judged solely on the basis of who, not what, they are.

Jethro Marsh

Stay right here to read about FE’s fight against discrimination at FE News!

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