Women are the key to skills shortages says EOC

Recruiting
more women into male-dominated industries and occupations could be the key to
solving the skills crisis and stopping the damage it is causing to the economy,
according to Julie Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

Mellor
was responding to a survey published by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC),
which found that 20 per cent of job vacancies remain unfilled because of a lack
of skilled applicants.

Mellor
said many of the sectors where the shortages are most acute have very few women
workers. 

"This
survey reveals just how much employers and the economy suffer from the shortage
of skilled workers. But a solution could be staring us all in the face,"
she said. "In some of the worst affected sectors women account for a tiny
percentage of the workforce.

"Only
1 per cent of people working in construction and 8 per cent of people in
engineering occupations, for example, are women. Women are a huge untapped
resource for these industries. In other areas the situation is reversed – only
2 per cent of childminders and 1 per cent of nursery nurses are men – these are
also sectors where Britain desperately needs more skilled workers."

Last
year the EOC launched an investigation into the causes of the continuing
segregation of the labour market, focusing in particular on modern
apprenticeships in construction, plumbing, engineering, ICT (information and
computer technology) and childcare. It is working with representatives of
industry, unions, the Government, and education and training organisations, and
will later this year be making recommendations for a concerted plan of action.

By Quentin Reade

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