Only 13% of Stem foundation apprenticeships started by women

Fewer than one in five students taking up a foundation apprenticeship in a Stem subject is female, new figures have shown.

Despite more than half (53.7%) of all 2017 entrants to the foundation apprenticeship programme being female, for the science, technology, engineering or maths strands female representation was 13.2%.

This has risen from 8.1% for the 2016 entrants to the apprenticeship programme, which gives high school pupils the chance to choose a work placement as one of their senior subject choices.

A total of eight local authorities do not offer Stem apprenticeships.

The figures are included in a Skills Development Scotland (SDS) report on foundation apprenticeships which shows 71% of secondary schools are now involved in the programme, first trialled in 2014.

A total of 1,591 pupils started the scheme between August 2016 and January 2018, and SDS plans to have 2,600 pupils starting in August 2018.

However, the availability and enrolment currently differs markedly among local authorities, with Fife accounting for 19.2% of foundation apprenticeship starts in 2017 and North Lanarkshire 16% while Orkney, Clackmannanshire, Dundee and East Lothian were among those under 1%.

About half (50.8%) of the 346 students who started foundation apprenticeships in 2016 left early.

The majority of these (51.7%) remained in school while 11.9% entered employment, 13.1% went into further education, 3.4% started higher education and 14.2% began a modern apprenticeship.

The report stated that work is under way to "address gender gaps in the apprenticeship frameworks" and that more local authorities taking a greater role in delivery is expected to "ensure" more schools offer foundation apprenticeships.

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: "The Scottish Conservatives have recently called for the SNP to ensure that foundation apprenticeships are a part of every single Scottish secondary school's offer by 2020.

"The report today shows that progress has been made towards this goal but the geographical disparities will be affecting students' options.

"In addition, the lack of women undertaking Stem apprenticeships and the high drop-out rates must be addressed if students are to gain most benefit from these opportunities."

She said her party wants the education system to be "rebalanced" to soften the divide between academic and work-based learning, arguing evidence points this is "key to a well-performing modern economy".

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