Are apprenticeships creating the right opportunities for women in manufacturing?

Posted on 20 Feb 2023 by Joe Bush

A new survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has revealed that 85% of businesses in the manufacturing industry have reported persistent challenges when recruiting, with 73% facing difficulties finding skilled manual/technical workers.

The survey indicates that British businesses are facing the highest level of recruitment difficulties, amid the widespread skills shortages and talent crisis which is seeing numbers enrolled on apprenticeships down and severe repercussions on the industry sector’s output and profitability as a whole.

Current apprenticeship frameworks are failing to attract and retain talent, particularly for female starts

Manufacturer MSP Springs and Stamping‘s new whitepaper on Women in Manufacturing is seeking to underline how apprenticeships are an opportunity to tackle the skills shortage, yet current apprenticeship frameworks are failing to attract and retain talent, particularly for female starts.

Leigh Cresswell, Operations Manager at MSP, said: ”Apprenticeships in the manufacturing industry are a fantastic way of entry into the sector, offering an extensive range of opportunities for people looking to gain key industry skills and become accredited within the industry.

  • Apprenticeship starts still remain below pre-pandemic levels
  • Females accounted for only 15% of starts in STEM in 2021
  • 73% of manufacturers are facing difficulties finding skilled manual/technical workers

“Apprenticeships are also an excellent route for women to enter the sector, and will be vital in the long-term for helping to address the key skills shortages and enable employers to upskill in core areas of the business.”

Despite this, MSP’s whitepaper has found that apprenticeship starts in employers of all sizes are still below pre-pandemic levels, markedly in medium employers which remain 34% lower. Of that, in the 2020/2021 period, women accounted for only 15% of starts in STEM apprenticeships.

These statistics underline how present apprenticeship frameworks may be failing to attract crucial talent, even as 86% of employers stated that apprenticeships have helped them to cultivate relevant skills for their organisations.

Increasingly, business leaders have been calling for the urgent reform of the apprenticeship levy, as it is preventing businesses from addressing key skills gaps by transferring money away from vital training opportunities and restricting spending to specific types of training.

While changes to the levy may help the industry in the long-term, MSP are advising businesses on what they can do to address the industry’s failure to encourage female talent. Leigh commented: “It’s obvious that the current broad-based programmes in place are not effectively encouraging the right people, nor are they creating accessible opportunities for women in the industry.”

“Manufacturers need to increasingly be looking to attract talent by ensuring that they are creating supportive and inclusive environments and addressing the extreme under-representation and gender divide within the industry.

“This includes offering clear career pathways and increasing the visibility and investment of apprenticeship opportunities for women. While this may be a longer-term solution, overcoming the barriers that are discouraging women and young girls from entering into the sector is essential for the future of the industry as a whole.”

For more stories on People & Skills click here.