For various reasons, a young woman on the cusp of adulthood could be convinced that enrolling at university would be the best step forward for their career future. While university can too often be perceived as a panacea for career concerns, ingrained gender roles can also be to blame.
Here, we should consider the plight of encouraging more women to take up STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – subjects. While such subjects are often crucial to skilled trades, lingering cultural throwbacks could convince too many girls to stay away from these subjects.
That would be to the detriment of the UK’s sharply rising number of medium- and low-skilled jobs. A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and reported by The Telegraph warned that these jobs were being created at a thrice-faster rate than those usually requiring degrees.
What is the answer to this growing skills gap? One could be to encourage more women to pursue apprenticeship-based training to ultimately land work in a skilled trade. While this would be an unorthodox move for many women, there are good reasons for them to consider taking this path.
There’s plenty of work to be had in skilled trades
Though school leavers have often been pushed towards the path to university study, research suggests that, for many of them, practical training could actually pay greater dividends for their future career success. To see why, we need only look back at the previously mentioned IPPR study.
According to that study, more and more vacancies in skilled trades are opening up as the “baby-boomer” generation retires from the likes of bricklaying, plumbing and electrics.
The report of the IPPR study suggested that “the number of high-skilled jobs has not kept pace with the rate at which workers are becoming more highly qualified”, adding that “low-skilled” jobs were continuing to be produced in large numbers.
As the country increasingly demands workers who have the right practical skills, IPPR researcher Craig Thorley has advocated that more teenagers take up high-quality vocational qualifications like apprenticeships. However, why should women be particularly encouraged to consider this?
You can blaze a trail for future tradeswomen
Women are significantly underrepresented in the STEM field. HuffPost points out that, of American college majors in computer science, only 18% are women. Similarly, when it comes to mathematics, women account for only 17% of the tenure-track faculty.
What is to blame for the poor uptake of STEM subjects among women? Research suggests that the causes could be deep-rooted – and traceable right back to toddlerhood. While most studies show that boys and girls don’t differ in STEM ability, a major gap in perceived competence emerges early.
This has had an unfortunate knock-on effect on the subjects that boys and girls are encouraged to pursue. For example, according to several studies, parents and teachers tend to more actively encourage boys, rather than girls, to nurture their abilities in mathematics.
In an interview with The Telegraph, senior engineer Lesley MacRury has vouched for this discrepancy, admitting: “There’s definitely a gender stereotype issue, which often begins in primary school.” She added: “When girls choose their subjects in secondary, … you’re influenced most by what peers are doing and may not choose STEM subjects.”
Nonetheless, she acknowledged that the situation has been improving. Imagine your pride if you helped to further this improvement by showing girls that, yes, STEM work can really be for them.
There’s a broad choice of trades available
Another reason for females of many different ages to be excited about the prospect of skilled trade work is that there are plentiful such trades from which they can choose. You can see many of the options even just from the list of trades for which we offer insurance!
However, even once you have settled on a specific trade that seems “just right” for you, you don’t have to fear that you are now “hemmed into” a path strewn with narrow opportunities. Just look at the example of engineering; you would be making a mistake to deem it a “pure” subject.
MacRury raised this point in her interview, describing engineering as a subject “wide and varied where everything overlaps, and it doesn’t close doors to talents.”
You might have assumed that engineering wouldn’t be for you if you have a strong artistic streak that you would love to further develop. However, MacRury has insisted that “engineers are allowed to be artistic, too”. She describes engineering as “one of the most creative professions you could ever choose” – and we would certainly concur.
The financial rewards can be especially good
Exactly because skilled trades are in high demand, you could find yourself mining impressive financial returns from learning one of these trades. Furthermore, research suggests that you will develop an increasing edge on your university-educated peers in this respect.
Government ministers have, in the past, claimed that the average individual can add over £100,000 to their lifetime earnings after completing an undergraduate degree. However, that wage premium appears to be eroding over time, with university education no longer an “exclusive” commodity.
Research has also revealed increasing instances of graduates suffering “low-earner anxiety” resulting from their post-university earnings failing to meet their expectations.
Low-earner anxiety kicks in when the sufferer starts to feel stressed about the thought of their peers out-earning them. Research by banking services provider think money, has revealed that, whereas 28% of former students reported experiencing this type of anxiety, the proportion fell to 16% among non-graduates.
On the subject of anxiety, there’s something else that you could suspect might cause it, and that’s trying to juggle your career responsibilities with looking after a family. However, though engineering companies have been encouraged to adopt a more family-friendly ethos to avoid losing their female workers, it could be said that flexible working policies for valuable for both men and women.
Childcare can remain an ongoing cost to carefully account for – as can insurance. We can provide you with covers, including public liability insurance, to help you keep financial disaster at bay.