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Apprenticeship targets call as inequalities revealed by report

Just 1% of construction apprentices were women while just 1 in 300 were people with disabilities.

Pay protest: Construction workers concerned over reforms
© STV

Contractors have been urged to take on a wider range of apprentices after a report revealed fewer than one in 300 have disabilities and less than 2% are from an ethnic minority.

Additionally, only 1% of construction apprentices are women, according to research for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Scotland.

Alastair Pringle, EHRC director in Scotland, said the Holyrood administration is "missing a trick by failing to maximise the potential of all Scotland's people".

The commission is calling on the Scottish Government to act, saying targets for improving access to modern apprenticeships for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people need to be "made explicit".

Ministers need to "demand greater effort from their contractors" to take on more disabled and ethnic minority apprentices and to open up industries traditionally seen as being for men to young women, Mr Pringle said.

A total of 26,427 people started a modern apprenticeship in 2011-12, of whom just 74 (0.3%) were disabled or had learning difficulties, according to the research.

Only 1.7% of apprentices starting that year were non-white, 95.9% were white and the ethnicity of the remaining 2.4% was not known.

A total of 11,381 women began an apprenticeship in 2011-12, meaning 43.1% of all new apprentices that year were female.

But the research, by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, said that compared with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, "Scotland is the only country in which the number of female starts is persistently lower than male starts" and that the other countries "succeeded in correcting previous trends of female under-representation in terms of starts".

In construction and engineering, only a respective 1.3% and 2.6% of those starting their training in 2011-12 were women.

Only 31 women began apprenticeships in both industries, compared with the 2343 men who started an apprenticeship in the building industry and 1178 in engineering.

In the electrotechnical services sector, just 1% of new apprentices were female, while in the early years, care and education sector 96.8% were women. For hairdressing, the proportion of women was 92.7%.

Mr Pringle said: "At a time when the Government is moving people from welfare into work, the accessibility of training for skills is essential. Our report shows that out of the 26,000 apprenticeship placements available in Scotland, only 74 disabled people have been able to take up places.

"The Scottish Government has invested a great deal of money in developing the Scottish economy by boosting the skills of its workforce. It is therefore disappointing to see that the profile of apprenticeship opportunities is a very old one: men doing the 'heavy work' like building; women doing the 'softer work' like caring and teaching; and disabled people not having much work at all.

"If we are to emerge from the recession successfully, we need to harness the talents of all of Scotland's people. This report shows that we are missing a trick by failing to maximise the potential of all Scotland's people.

"We believe that the Government needs to demand greater effort from their contractors to drive up the representation of ethnic minorities and disabled people, and to open up occupations which have traditionally been men only to young women apprenticeships."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The past two years have seen more than 25,000 new modern apprentices starting annually, with almost 43% of all apprenticeship starts in 2012-13 being women, up from 27% in 2008-09. However, we recognise that more needs to be done to ensure that all elements of Scottish society are better represented across our workforce.

"Alongside key initiatives such as Careerwise Scotland, which encourages more girls into science and technology, Skills Development Scotland are considering how to encourage applications to a range of vocations from as wide a pool as possible through working with training providers and through their careers-advice modernisation programme."

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