At their best, apprenticeships offer young people the chance to learn skills and make a start in a career. The positive stories we hear from young people tell us that apprenticeships can be a valuable route into employment.
However, these positive stories are rarer than we might hope, especially for young women who are facing many barriers to success.
At Young Women's Trust, we believe that it is only by including young women in creating the solutions to remove these barriers that the fundamental changes that are needed can come about. That's why we created our apprenticeship working group to advise us on our campaign.
It is also why, on 23 November 2015, we are holding an event in Westminster that will bring together members of the group alongside government officials, employers, training providers and others to work on creating an apprenticeships system that addresses the concerns of young women.
But what barriers do young women face exactly? Young women tell us that in many cases they do not receive adequate training; struggle to combine an apprenticeship and childcare; or are stuck in a system that pays little and offers limited opportunities to secure the long term employment they desire.
These are young women who have first-hand experience of the frustrations and limitations of the apprenticeship system and who are best placed to help us understand the realities of being an apprentice today.
Their experiences are not isolated cases. Polling of 1,300 young people carried out in partnership with ComRes shows that, on average, young men are earning 21% more than young women while doing an apprenticeship.
According to the poll, female apprentices earn just £4.82 an hour compared with £5.85 an hour for male apprentices. That means a young woman working 30 hours a week will be £1,700 worse off over the course of a year.
Started, but did not complete, an apprenticeship:
"I think that's why a lot of people drop out… When they're faced with actually living with that much they realise how hard it is."
Completed an apprenticeship in retail:
"It makes you want to give up on bettering yourself."
A fundamental aspect of apprenticeships is the combination of training at work, training outside of work and practical work experience. But, again, young women are losing out.
While undertaking apprenticeships, young women are almost twice as likely to report that they missed out on training. Almost a quarter (23%) of young women received no training outside of work, compared to 12% of young men. Without training, apprenticeships become a source of cheap labour for employers and offer little benefit to the employee.
Completed an apprenticeship in hair and beauty:
"The tutor would hand work out then leave and not come back. There was no support and they didn't expect much from me"
Completed an apprenticeship in business administration:
"I don't think I got any support to be honest… I know we have apprentices at our work and they have people coming in and seeing them, I didn't have any of that."
Apprenticeships are valued because they are seen as a route to employment. But here too, young women are disadvantaged. After completing their apprenticeship, some 16% of women were out of work, compared to 6% of men.
Completed an apprenticeship in childcare:
"There were no paid vacancies, they just bring on another apprentice because they couldn't afford a paid member of staff."
Completed apprenticeship in hair and beauty:
"I don't understand why they'd invest and spend a year training you and not get anything out of it."
The statistics highlight something wrong at the heart of the apprenticeship system that works against young women. This prevents thousands of young women making the most of their huge potential.
As the Government invests in growing new apprenticeships, it is to be commended for its commitment to providing opportunities for young people. However, it will be important to address the barriers that stop young women from benefitting in the same way as young men if apprenticeships are to fulfil their true potential for individual young people and the economy at large.