Friday, 4 March 2016

Scottish Modern Apprenticeships - what about women in STEM?

A blog post from Talat Yaqoob, Director, Equate Scotland

Scottish Modern Apprenticeship week gives us an opportunity to highlight the fantastic alternative routes into careers that young people have open to them. Often there is an assumption that our young people only have a set route into work; from school to university to a job, but in an ever changing economy and workforce, there is no longer a set way, there are more routes into a successful future than ever before.

Modern Apprenticeships give young people an insight into industry whilst being trained and in the majority of cases (almost 70% for people aged 16-21) pursue a job with the same company after completion. But there are many myths around what modern apprenticeships involve and who they are for. Modern apprenticeships are for everyone, they are not for those less academically able, they are not only for boys and they do not always involve some form of manual labour – modern apprenticeships are as diverse as Scotland’s young people, we should view them as a door to opportunity.

At Equate Scotland we work to support girls and women to pursue and progress in the science, engineering and technology (STEM) industries. Modern apprenticeships are a great way for young women to consider a STEM career, but despite efforts, women are still lagging behind the boys in technology, construction and engineering. In the last 3 months less than 1% of construction apprentices were women.

You might think this isn’t a big deal, maybe women just aren’t interested in science or construction but it’s not that simple. From a young age, girls are given messages to tell them these industries are not for them. From being gifted a toy hoover over a toy tractor, from boys being encouraged to pursue physics in secondary school and girls encouraged to focus on biology, we subconsciously tell them what their ambitions should be. It has been this way for generations. But as the workforce changes, this channelling of ambition is actually cutting young women off to the jobs of tomorrow.

We need 140,000 more engineers in Scotland by 2020 and yet only 8% of engineering students are women. By changing the conversations we have with girls and young women, we can change this and give them the full choice of opportunities they deserve. We can make the most of their talents and ambitions. This is where you as parents are so vital as parents are one of the biggest influencers in a young person’s life! According to a study by Target Jobs in 2014, over half of students stated their parents influenced their subject choices and even more interestingly, 66% of students felt it was right for their parents to discuss choices with them and influence their decisions.

By parents, educators and supporters talking about alternative routes into a careers and particularly, by talking to girls about the possibility of having a science, engineering or technology based career we can change the face of STEM in Scotland and let our daughters know that there is no limit to their ambition.

Talat Yaqoob, Director, Equate Scotland

You can find out more about Modern Apprenticeships and how to get in touch with Equate Scotland on their leaflet for parents

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