Report shows Blackpool girls are shunning science and engineering

Only eight per cent of the science and engineering apprenticeships in Blackpool over the last five years were taken up by women, figures show.

Wednesday, 13th November 2019, 11:45 am
More needs to be done to encourage girls to consider careers in science and engineering. Here Frida Hargreaves finds out about static electricity at the Lancashire Science Festival at UCLan

Across England, apprenticeships as a whole are evenly split between men and women, but female representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics apprenticeships – known as Stem subjects – remains low.

In Blackpool, 750 Stem apprenticeships were started over the last five years – and just 60 were taken up by women, according to the latest data by the Department for Education.

Female representation varied between years, but remained low. It reached its highest in 2016-17 at 12 per cent, and was lowest in 2014-15 and 2015-16 at just six per cent.

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Robotics in action at the Lancashire Science Festival

Meanwhile, women took 58 per cent of apprenticeships in all subjects in Blackpool.

Across England, the percentage of Stem apprenticeships taken by women varied considerably, but in no area did they represent more than a quarter of apprentices.

Seven areas, including West Somerset and Hastings had no female representation while Crawley had the highest, at 23 per cent.

Ana Osbourne, from the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, said: "Research has shown that the language used in job adverts can make the job more or less appealing to one gender and therefore discourage women from applying for certain jobs.

"We are looking at how this applies to the wording in apprenticeships – including for Stem apprenticeships, where the number of women is lower."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Our ambition is to make sure that everyone, regardless of their background or gender, is able to fulfil their potential and get the skills and training they need to build a successful career."

Here on the Fylde Coast, Blackpool and the Fylde College said almost one in four (23 per cent) of its higher and degree apprenticeship students were women, but it recognised nationally the poor representation of young women in STEM subjects and was working to address this in many ways.

Scott Cubitt, B&FC's head of engineering, said: "We collaborate with employers to encourage female STEM representation, and raises awareness of educational opportunities through International Women In Engineering Day.

"B&FC is an active member of WISE ( which seeks to address the gender imbalance in STEM subjects. And the College has 25 women across our science and engineering teams who are active role models at encouraging female representation in STEM subjects."

Dr Elizabeth Granger, head of widening participation and public engagement at the University of Central Lancashire, said: “Blackpool is not alone in having a gender imbalance in the STEM sector – it is a UK wide issue that needs to be addressed.

“Collectively across the country we need to work harder at breaking down the old perceptions, but also at sparking excitement about science and engineering in both young girls and boys from an early age.

“Our Lancashire Science Festival attracts over 6,000 primary school children to take part in science, while our work with the Royal Academy of Engineering to deliver engineering clubs in community and Brownie groups is also aimed at inspiring the women engineers of the future."