The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) is launching an investigation into the Government's Modern Apprenticeship training scheme because not enough women are applying.
Julie Mellor, chair of the EOC, said the investigation would concentrate on the reasons women were shunning the training and what employers could do to reverse the situation.
According to the EOC, just 1 per cent of trainees on plumbing, electrical and construction apprenticeships are female because of negative stereotypes in those sectors.
"At the moment apprenticeships are part of the problem, rather than the solution. They are even more segregated than the industries they are supposed to serve," she said.
The shortfall of females taking apprenticeships was feeding the country's productivity problems, because industry was missing out on a huge number of potential recruits, she said.
"Occupational segregation is a real challenge to British productivity. We have skills shortages in the construction, IT and electrical industries and the gender gap is fuelling this problem.
"No wonder there are skills shortages if we're missing out on half the population."
Mellor is also concerned about the 25-year-old age limit for apprenticeships, as it could prevent women returning to the market after having children.