Breaking the Stereotypes: Women in Apprenticeship Programs

Learn how employers can support more women in apprenticeship programs, break gender stereotypes and increase diversity in the workforce.

May 16, 2023

Women in apprenticeship have made significant progress in many fields, breaking barriers and shattering glass ceilings. However, women still need to be represented in certain areas, such as apprenticeships. While apprenticeships offer an excellent opportunity to learn new skills and earn a good wage, they are often perceived as predominantly for men. 

Stereotypes such as apprenticeships being in dirty and dangerous industries or not being a good way to get an education keep many women from pursuing this path. In this article, we will explore how employers can support more women in apprenticeships and why it's a win-win.

Labor Statistics

Employers looking to diversify their workforce should pay attention to the low concentration of female workers in certain trades. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, industries such as aircraft mechanics, electrical repairers, HVAC technicians, and welders have less than 20% female workers. 

This presents an opportunity for employers to break down gender stereotypes and attract more women to these apprenticeship programs. Encouraging women to pursue careers in these trades can lead to a stronger and more diverse workforce. By providing equal opportunities and support, employers can help break the stereotype that men dominate these industries.

Challenges for Women in Apprenticeships

Despite progress over the years, women still face many challenges in apprenticeships. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of awareness among women about apprenticeships as an option, especially those from families that have not traditionally worked in the trades. 

From there, women who do consider apprenticeships run into the problem of stereotypes. Many people believe that women are not strong or skilled enough to do the work or are too emotional or delicate. Additionally, some women may not receive the necessary support from their families and friends when they decide to pursue an apprenticeship due to concerns about the physical demands of the work and the lack of opportunities for advancement. 

Finally, the lack of affordable and quality childcare can be a significant barrier for women considering an apprenticeship, as the cost of childcare can be prohibitive, and it can be challenging to find childcare.

What can Women do?

Firstly, research and gain as much knowledge as possible about the trades that interest you. This will help you make an informed decision about which career path to take. Secondly, reach out to women already in the trades and ask for advice and support. They can help you overcome challenges and succeed in your chosen field. Thirdly, look for a mentor who is already successful in the trades and can guide and support you. Lastly, join a women's trade organization to access resources, support, and networking opportunities.

Some Inclusivity Programs

The challenges for women in the labor market are not new or unknown. Many resources exist to support women, such as the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor

“The Women’s Bureau champions policies and standards that safeguard the interests of working women, advocates for the equality and economic security of women and their families, and promotes quality work environments.”

Within the Women's Bureau are several initiatives, such as the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) Grant Program.

“The Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grant program is designed to help expand pathways for women to enter and lead in a range of fields in which women have traditionally been underrepresented. These industries include finance, technology, construction, manufacturing, energy, and transportation.”

The National Association of Women in Construction also has a number of programs to promote apprenticeships for women, including the Women in Construction Pre-Apprenticeship Program and the Women in Construction Apprenticeship Program.

“With more than 115 chapters across the country, the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) offers its members education, support, and networking to help advance their careers in construction, build their technical skills, and become leaders.”

These programs are working to increase awareness of women's apprenticeship opportunities, promote positive role models for women in the trades, and provide support for women in apprenticeship programs.

What Can Employers Do to Support Women In Apprenticeships?

For employers seeking to break the stereotype and provide more opportunities for women in apprenticeships, it is essential to understand these challenges and work to address them by providing support, education, and flexibility.

Promote apprenticeships to women 

Employers can promote apprenticeships to women through various channels, such as job postings, social media, and career fairs. They can create targeted outreach programs that reach out to women interested in pursuing a trade career. This can include working with local schools and community organizations to offer apprenticeship opportunities to female students and providing information and resources to help them make informed decisions about their career path.

Secondly, employers can partner with women's trade organizations such as NAWIC. These organizations can connect women with mentors and provide networking opportunities to help them succeed in their chosen fields.

Thirdly, employers can make a concerted effort to create a welcoming and inclusive workplace culture that values diversity and promotes gender equity. This can include providing training and resources to managers and staff on supporting and mentoring women in the trades and creating policies and programs that address gender bias and discrimination.

Provide information about apprenticeships

When promoting their apprenticeships, employers should provide clear information about the requirements, benefits, and application process. This information should be readily available on the company website, social media platforms, and recruitment materials. 

Employers should also provide details about the application process, including deadlines and any relevant information about eligibility criteria. This ensures potential applicants have the information they need to make informed decisions about their career paths.

Remove barriers to entry

Employers can consider providing supportive services, such as access to childcare, transportation, financial assistance, and other resources to help workers balance their work and personal responsibilities. 

These resources help all workers and create a more supportive and inclusive workplace culture, demonstrating employers' commitment to their employees' well-being and success, resulting in improved productivity, employee satisfaction, and retention. 

Investing in these resources can help employers attract and retain a more diverse workforce, leading to increased innovation and a more competitive business.

Provide support and mentorship

By offering guidance and assistance, employers can help women overcome the unique challenges they may face in the workplace and achieve their career goals. Support can come from access to training programs, networking opportunities, and resources to help women balance their work and personal responsibilities. 

Mentorship is also essential to this support, providing women with guidance and advice from experienced professionals who have navigated similar challenges. By investing in the success of women in their apprenticeship programs, employers can help to break down the barriers to gender diversity in the workplace and create a more inclusive environment that values the contributions of all employees.

Create a welcoming and inclusive workplace

Employers can take proactive steps to promote diversity and inclusion, such as offering sensitivity training to all employees and creating a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination or harassment. By fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect, employers can make women feel welcome and supported in their workplace and ensure that women are represented in leadership positions and provided with equal career advancement opportunities.

Women played an essential role in the labor market during World War II. With millions of men fighting overseas, women stepped up to fill the gaps in industries that had traditionally been considered men's work. In factories, women produced tanks, planes, ships, and other war materials. They also worked in shipyards, assembling ships and other vessels. Their contributions were instrumental, and it is clear that women have the skills and potential to succeed in any field they choose. 

However, there are challenges that women face in apprenticeships, including a lack of awareness and support, persisting stereotypes, and a lack of affordable childcare. By promoting apprenticeships to women, removing barriers to entry, and providing support, employers can create a more diverse and productive workforce, benefitting women and the company as a whole. It's time to encourage more women to consider apprenticeships as a viable career advancement option and invest in their success.

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