Equality and diversity for apprentices

This information is designed for use by union reps. If you are an apprentice, see our Information and resources for apprentices.

Quality and equality are two aspects of the Apprenticeship experience that go hand-in-hand and should be given the highest priority.

Women apprentices

Of all the Apprenticeships started in 2010/11, 54% were started by women. However, women are under-represented in sectors such as construction and engineering that tend to have better pay and prospects than those that are predominantly female such as hairdressing and early years care.

This is one of the reasons for an overall gender pay gap of 21%, but even within the same sector women are being paid less: for example 61% of apprentices in the retail sector are female but they are paid 16% less than male retail apprentices. Recent research by unionlearn (2011) reinforces these earlier findings, showing that occupations with the highest-paid Apprenticeships tend to have a much lower ratio of female apprentices.

Apprenticeship Gender Pay Gap

Young black and minority ethnic apprentices

The proportion of young people from black and minority ethnic communities in the general population aged 18–24 was 14% in 2007/8, but the latest government figures on their representation in apprenticeship schemes show a high level of under-representation, with only 9% of young black workers in Apprenticeships.

Further reading: Under-representation by gender and race in Apprenticeships

Young apprentices with disabilities

EHRC evidence suggests that disabled young people are not receiving information about opportunities in workbased learning and Apprenticeships, and that the information received about further education options is often negative. Access to Apprenticeships for people declaring a learning difficulty and/or disability has fallen from 11.5% in 2005/06 to 8% in 2010/11.

How can I make a difference?

Unions have a crucial role to play in redressing this balance and ensuring that women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and other disadvantaged groups are not discouraged from taking up Apprenticeship opportunities.

Some points to suggest to your employer might be:

  • Consider what reasonable adjustments and support services they could offer in order to make their Apprenticeship programmes accessible to disabled people.
  • Encourage applications for Apprenticeships from under-represented groups – consider how marketing and recruitment strategies could help reach a wider audience.
  • Review recruitment and selection criteria to ensure they don’t exclude or discourage under-represented groups.
  • Consider giving all ‘atypical’ applicants who meet the minimum selection criteria an interview, and consider using positive action to address under-representation.
  • Carry out equality and diversity training for managers and others involved in recruitment.
  • Introduce flexible working for all young people.
  • Offer work experience to local schools, including same-sex open days.
  • Ask current apprentices and employees from under-represented groups to act as role models or ‘champions’.
  • Target particular groups by holding recruitment days at community events.
  • Look for training providers who are actively involved in training atypical apprentices, and have incorporated their views in the design, development, review and delivery of Apprenticeships.
  • Target information at parents of young people from disadvantaged groups to help address their under-representation.


Further reading: ULRs: Champions of Equality

Equality guides for employers

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has recently published a series of equality related guides for employers. Follow these links for information you can use to supplement that which is available from your union and the TUC:

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