The Port Talbot steelworks [Image: Getty].

The Port Talbot steelworks [Image: Getty].

The UK and Scottish Governments of all political creeds have not developed a sustainable and proactive industrial strategy over the last twenty years (and more). The current crisis engulfing our nation’s steel industry has illuminated a number of these structural and strategic weaknesses in our economy.

If we take a look more closely at the nation’s skills and apprenticeships programmes then you begin to understand some of the reasons for this inchoate approach.

The inadequacies of the system are alarming when you consider that more than 30 per cent of people who start apprenticeships fail to complete them, and the numbers have worsened every year for the past three years. The success rate for all apprenticeships completing their apprenticeship was 68.9 per cent in 2013/14. It has declined steadily since 2010/11 when it was 76.4 per cent. If the success rate stays as it is over the UK Parliament, the 3m target by 2020 will equate to less than 2.1m successfully completed apprenticeships. The sharpest fall in success rates was among apprentices aged 19 and over, which fell 4.4 percentage points in the latest year alone to 68.2 per cent — precisely the demographic that should be targeted.

The gender segregation is also striking as across the UK women account for 94 per cent of childcare apprentices but just under 4 per cent of engineering apprentices while male apprentices outnumber their female colleagues by 56 to one in construction and 74 to one in plumbing. These imbalances have barely budged in over a decade as women represented 4.6 per cent of engineering apprentices in 2002 and just 3.8 per cent in 2014.

The gap between the salaries of average full time male and female workers is also still around 10% which is directly a result of the aforementioned occupational segregation embedded by our apprenticeships system. In a recent survey by the Young Women’s Trust a survey found that women were paid £4.82 an hour on average and £5.85 for men — a scandalous gap accelerated by the Chancellors –so called Living Wage for over 25s.

In recent survey by British Gas conducted on perceptions of value worth of apprenticeships 44 per cent of people aged said they would never even consider an apprenticeship. This was complemented by a survey conducted by Prudential which concluded that in a survey of 16 to 18-year-olds who have decided against an apprenticeship it found that more than a third (36 per cent) selected other options due to the perceived level of qualification available.

Is it any wonder with pay levels as low as that and a country which does not have an education system tailored towards promoting apprenticeships in critical areas of our economy?

Source: Industry: a nation’s skills crisis — Medium

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