Skills minister David Lammy has blamed employer apathy for the government’s failure to boost women’s skill levels.
He said the biggest problem was getting companies to offer apprenticeships to women or pay even a small proportion of training costs.
Lammy admitted to MPs at a Commons select committee hearing that the schemes the government has launched to boost women’s employment prospects were struggling. He revealed that the £20m London Level 3 pilot project to give more women intermediate skills has less than 750 participants against a target of more than 12,000. The scheme was launched 18 months ago to offer Train to Gain funding for women seeking A-level-equivalent training.
“Some of these pilots have got off to a slower start than I would have liked – partly because they are cutting to the heart of changing employer practices,” Lammy said. “We need to see acceleration and the money spent properly. This is about persuading employers that [helping women get greater skills] is good for them.”
Asked whether the main obstacle to trials such as the London Level 3 pilot succeeding was the attitude of employers, Lammy replied “absolutely”. He added: “We have made good progress, but in terms of where we need to get to in order to realise the Leitch ambition, we have a long way to go.
“That requires a huge culture change. We have made a slow start, but we are only 18 months into this journey. The new department allows us to accelerate.”
MPs were quizzing Lammy about progress on the Women and Work Commission report, which sets out the challenges of closing the gender pay gap.