Women are key to skills-shortage solution

Recruiting more
women is a clear solution to severe shortages of skilled workers in some areas
of the labour market, such as plumbing, construction and engineering, an
investigation has found.

The report of the first phase
of an Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) investigation identifies key
barriers to change, and calls on the Government, employers and unions to tackle
them now.

Plugging Britain’s skills
gap: challenging gender segregation in training and work
is the first
report from the EOC’s major investigation into workforces that are divided
along gender lines – the first investigation of its kind. It focuses on Modern
Apprenticeships (MAs) in skill-shortage areas, but draws out wider lessons for
employment and training in the UK.

Also today, the EOC is
publishing results from a BMRB International survey of 1,000 individuals, which
shows that more than 90 per cent of people would want their children to make
choices about work without constraint by traditional stereotypes about jobs
that are ‘suitable’ for men and women.

It also indicates that today’s
young people lack enough information about job opportunities to enable them to
make well-informed choices.

Julie Mellor, chair of the EOC,
said today: "Many people will be familiar with the frustration of not
being able to get hold of a plumber or find a suitable childcare place for
their child. But of course skills shortages also have a significant impact on
employers. Even high-profile projects, such as Heathrow’s Terminal 5, are
having problems finding enough skilled workers. 

"This investigation has
identified real barriers to choice for employers and individuals. Unless we see
dramatic action to address them, major skills shortages will continue to blight
individual businesses and damage the wider economy.

"In the short-term, the
Government’s relaunch of the Modern Apprenticeship programme will provide an
exciting opportunity to open up more choices for young people, and supply
business with a more diverse pool of workers. We are delighted that we have had
a clear signal from the Government that tackling sex segregation is a key route
to improving the UK’s economy and skills base in the longer term – and not an
optional add-on."

Quentin Reade

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