Britain is failing to provide real opportunity and choice for young people entering training and work, according to a report published today by the Equal Opportunities Commission.
The Free to Choose report reveals that young people - particularly girls from lower socio-economic groups - are not being given the access to careers advice, work-experience placements and training opportunities that would allow them to gain higher pay.
Instead, many are being channelled into jobs traditional to their sex, the report found.
Only 15% of young people received any advice or information on work experience in a sector where the workforce is currently dominated by the opposite sex.
Yet the survey found that 80% of employers thought a better gender mix would create a better range of skills and talents.
Julie Mellor, who chairs the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: “[We] can't go on letting young people down - the choices they make at an early age affect their whole lives and the economy suffers if employers cannot get the right mix of skills and talents.
“Tackling occupational segregation needs to be put at the heart of government's strategy to raise skills and productivity,” she said.
The report found that:
- 80% of girls and 55% of boys said that they would or might be interested in learning to do a non-traditional job
- 76% of girls and 59% said that they would like to try work normally done by the opposite sex before making a final job choice
- 25% of boys said caring work sounded interesting or very interesting and 12% of girls were interested in construction
- 92% of women and men said that they would want children who are about to enter the workforce to be able to make job choices, without worrying about traditional stereotypes of women's and men's working roles. The figure increased to 100% in Wales.
The study, which included 1,100 adults and 90,000 young people who had been on work experience, also consulted 1.200 14-year-olds and 140 employers.
Women said they would have considered other careers if they had known that jobs normally filled by women were lower paid.