The new Modern Apprenticeship scheme is not attracting young women and people from ethnic minorities, although new evidence suggests it is proving popular with employers and young people.
A report by consultants Ernst and Young, commissioned by the old Employment Department, reveals that 83 per cent of apprentices in the 15 piloted sectors are male. Most females, just 17 per cent, are based in the business administration, information technology and child care sectors. The proportion of people from ethnic minorities is even smaller, only 3 per cent.
James Paice, minister responsible for Modern Apprenticeships, said "this situation should improve as new sectors come on stream", adding that the Department for Education and Employment is supporting the development of guidance on good practice in equal opportunities.
But the Modern Apprenticeship scheme, introduced last year to give 16 and 17-year-olds the opportunity to train to national vocation level 3, is popular with employers. Across the board, some 94 per cent say they would recommend it to other employers, although there is considerable variation, with just 50 per cent ready to recommend the child care and retail apprenticeships.
Part of their popularity might be due to the high quality of the new apprentices. More than 50 per cent have five GCSE passes at grade C or above - which compares favourably to the national average of 43 per cent - and 12 per cent had completed A-level courses.
More than 90 per cent of young people said they were "satisfied" with the scheme, which has been expanded to 51 sectors this year, covering everything from accountancy to wool textiles.