Women taking up apprenticeship roles in construction reaches highest point

Women taking up apprenticeship roles in construction reaches highest point

Analysis conducted by Protrade shows more young women than ever are looking at a career in construction 

Construction has a history of struggling to attract female and ethnic minorities into the industry and continues to have a stigma for being a middle-aged white male-dominated industry. 

However, a fresh analysis conducted on apprenticeship uptake in construction shows that young women starting a career in the industry have hit their highest point.  

An estimated 24,530 people started apprenticeships across the UK, according to 2022-23 Government data collected by Protrade, with 10% of that figure being made up of females,  growing by more than 2% on the previous year’s estimate (21-22).  

That growth aside, significant work still needs to be done to make construction more diverse. Morgan Siddall’s report Are we Gen Z ready? revealed that 57% of women and girls are still put off from considering a career in the construction sector because they believe it is male-dominated. Further statistics back that notion, with only 12.37% of all engineers in the UK being female, according to data published by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES). 

The sector continues to lag significantly behind other industries when analysing gender split. There remains an imbalance and when compared against other industries for gender balance across roles, construction still sits last. Only 14.7% of those employed in the industry are women, nearly 33% lower than the UK average. 

Craig Sanders, Joint Managing Director at Protrade, said: “Women have always been in construction, but for a long time they’ve only been associated with roles like architecture and design. There’s a reason there has been a stigma about women and construction and comes down to the fact that, for a long time, women weren’t often seen on-site. 

“There has been a shift. Women are finding themselves in roles where it’s not just about designing something but building it, too. As more and more women enter the industry, the old stereotypes are being removed. 

“Gender equality has come a long way in the UK over the last decade and far more businesses, more than ever before, are seeking equality in the work environment. That itself will only encourage more women to follow suit. 

“Certainly what we are seeing is that the construction sector is slowly becoming more inclusive but there is still a long way and many more hurdles to overcome to be at the same level as other leading industries with regards to diversity.”

The state of construction apprenticeships: a deeper analysis 

The latest decline highlights the sector’s continuing struggle to entice people into the industry, amid the skills shortage crisis. When analysing the last five years of apprenticeship uptake within construction, data shows that very little progress has been made since 2018. 

As previously alluded to in this report, approximately 22,700 people took up apprenticeship positions in construction between 2022-23, representing a decline year-on-year when compared to 2021-22 figures which were at their highest over the last five years. 

The average construction apprenticeship role uptake in the UK over the last five years (2018-2023): 

  • 2018-19 = 22,530  
  • 2019-20 = 21,920 (-2% drop) 
  • 2020-21 = 19,960 (-8% drop) 
  • 2021-22 = 26,060 (+30% increase) 
  • 2022-23 = 24,530 (-5% drop)

Analysing the above, the data shows the sector has almost come full circle.  

After the expected decline in apprenticeship roles taken up during COVID-19, there was an equally significant recovery. But despite the initial spike, the sector continues to trail below the level required to meet the demand borne by the growing skills gap crisis, which is highlighted by another report in 2023 suggesting that there were as many as 140,000 construction and trades vacancies in the UK. Furthermore, a survey by recruitment specialist Search Consultancy found that 83% of businesses within the construction industry are currently feeling the strain from a lack of skilled workers. 

When analysing the top 100 most popular apprenticeship roles taken up between 2022-23, it was clear that construction-relevant roles lag behind areas such as data analysis, early years education, accounting, and digital technology.  

Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician (29th) was the most popular construction-relevant position taken up, according to recent data, narrowly ahead of Bricklayer (34th). Supply Chain Warehouse Operatives and Engineering Operatives also feature in the top 100 list.  

Read the full State of Construction Apprenticeships report here. 

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