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Modern Apprenticeships: Training for the Boys?

Media Release
8 December 2003

Modern Apprenticeship Scheme: Training for the Boys?

The number of young women in the Modern Apprenticeships Scheme needs to increase if the scheme is to be truly "modern", says the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor.

"There are also too few Màori and Pacific Peoples represented in the scheme which is very well resourced with public money".

A report, "Modern Apprenticeships: Training for the Boys?" released today, suggests that the unequal participation reflects strong traditional imbalances in many industries. Only 6.6 % of apprentices were women. While Màori represent 14 % of total apprentices reflecting national population statistics, Màori female participation at 9% compared to 91% of Màori men is poor. While Pacific females are 20% of total Pacific Peoples participation, they only represent 1.9% to total modern apprentices.

"Modern Apprenticeships are a success story but we need to ensure that the scheme has the widest possible representation. What we don't want to see is the scheme perpetuating occupational segregation of young women in low paid, unskilled work because we as a society don't think outside the square about what it is girls can do," Dr McGregor said.

"Skilled trades are essential to the knowledge society so we need to know that meaningful opportunities to participate in a progressive employment strategy are available for women as well as men."

The marginal participation of women means they are denied equitable access to government resources given that the scheme is so well funded and the small number of women participating means that the initiative lacked gender equity in its design so that it mirrors the occupational stereotyping of previous apprenticeship schemes. Industries with the largest numbers of Modern Apprenticeships are dominated by males with building and construction, engineering, motor trade, electro-technology and forestry having 98% or more male apprentices. Only with agriculture, horticulture, bakery, hospitality and printing is the balance less than 85% male.

The low participation of women in Modern Apprenticeships results from reasons like entrenched gender barriers in some of the participating industries that make them unattractive to women, young women choosing educational pathways into tertiary study instead of trades work, and parental stereotypes that apprenticeships are for non-academic young men.

The report, written by Dr McGregor and Lance Gray of Massey University, contains a range of recommendations which include:

* the provision of incentives for the recruitment of young women, Màori and Pacific Peoples,

* a review of the funding criteria for Modern Apprenticeships,

* reporting against targets for more diverse participation by Modern Apprenticeships Co-ordinators,

* the promotion to parents as a pathway for young women, Màori and Pacific peoples,

* ensuring that the information and marketing of Modern Apprenticeships is relevant to community groups that focus on employment issues for target groups,

* encouraging increased numbers of public sector apprenticeships of women, Màori and Pacific Peoples.

A copy of the report can be found on the HRC web site:

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