In the wake of yesterday’s 'A' Level results statistics show that STEM subjects are still failing to attract girls, perpetuating gender imbalances in industry.
The A level results for 2010 were met with a scrum rush for university places as hopeful students faced unprecedented competition to secure space on oversubscribed university courses. A total of 673,098 students applied through the UCAS admissions system though only 379,411 have secured places while 286,103 are in differing stages of clearing and 7584 applicants have withdrawn entirely.
For those who do not make it through the clearing process Universities and Science Minister, David Willets, emphasized that “university is not the only route into well-paid and fulfilling work. That is why we are also investing so much in Further Education and 50,000 extra high-quality apprenticeships.”
Representatives from industry echo this encouragement towards apprentice routes. John Whelan, director of HR,UK at BAE Systems says “Apprenticeships are valuable qualifications and BAE strongly support them. We have recently launched our Skills 2020 initiative to confirm and broadcast this support more strongly to our supply chain and to schools. Students who are disappointed by the university clearing system this year should consider an apprenticeship as a viable option. It is worth remembering that many technical apprenticeships have stop off points which allow talented individuals to take degrees later in their training. In the mean time those individuals gain great career development opportunities and financial stability.”
Rachael Hoyle chose an apprenticeship qualification route with BAE despite gaining excellent GCSE results and against the advice of her teachers at the time. She is now in her final year of a part time Mechanical Engineering BEng at Manchester Metropolitan University, funded by BAE. “An apprenticeship can take you to an equal skills level as a degree if you want it to and in the mean time you are earning while learning.
Taking an apprenticeship is an intelligent option that gave me the independence I was seeking when I left school at sixteen. If anyone disappointed in their university ambitions thinks an apprenticeship represents a second best option they should think again. I have recently had contact from old teachers on Facebook to tell me that they were naive when they tried to discourage me from pursuing this route.”
Rachael chose her engineering apprenticeship to fulfil a passion for science and technology subjects but despite skills development institutions like CEME (Centre for Engineering and Manufacturing Excellence) saying that female apprentices are often the highest fliers, manufacturing remains a male dominated sector. Given that data breakdowns show 78.5% of science A Levels this year were taken by boys it would appear that this is likely to remain the case for some time and this gender imbalance in STEM qualified individuals may prove an issue for organisations come the October when the provisions of the new Equality Act 2010 will be clarified and come into force. As the UK strives towards greater equality and diversity in the workplace it is important that there is a balanced talent pool for it to draw from.