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Inequalities revealed within apprenticeship sector

New research for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Scotland, has revealed inequalities within the apprenticeship sector, and contractors are now being urged to take on a wider range of apprentices as a result.

The EHRC research found that just 2 per cent of apprentices taken on are from an ethnic background, while a tiny 1 per cent of construction apprentices are female. Less than one in 300 apprentices have disabilities, the research also revealed.

EHRC director in Scotland, Alastair Pringle, told STV News that the Holyrood administration was "missing a trick by failing to maximise the potential of all Scotland's people".

The Scottish Government was called upon to act in light of the research, with improved targets for boosting access to apprenticeships for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people called for.

Mr Pringle went on to say that Ministers need to "demand greater effort from their contractors" to take on more disabled and ethnic minority apprentices, as well as welcoming women into industries traditionally dominated by men, such as bricklaying, carpentry and plumbing.

While 26,427 people began an apprenticeship in 2011-12, just 0.3 per cent – 74 people – were disabled or had learning difficulties of some kind. Only 1.7 per cent of apprentices were non-white during that year.
In the construction and engineering sectors, only 1.3 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively were women starting apprenticeships in 2011-12.

Mr Pringle added: "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," he concluded.

A Scottish Government spokesman said that initiatives such as Careerwise Scotland, which encourages women into the science and technology sectors, was a positive step in the right direction.