Safety in stereotypes? The impact of gender and ‘race’ on young people's perceptions of their post‐compulsory education and labour market opportunities

Vanessa Beck, Alison Fuller, Lorna Unwin
  • British Educational Research Journal, October 2006, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1080/01411920600895718

Gender, ‘race’ and young people’s perceptions of their opportunities

What is it about?

This article examines the impact of gender and ‘race’ on young people’s perceptions of the educational and labour market opportunities available to them after they complete their compulsory schooling in England. Its findings are based on a study of the views of girls and boys about the government-supported ‘Apprenticeships’ programme, which, because it reflects labour market conditions, is highly gendered and also segregated by ethnicity. The research shows that young people receive very little practical information and guidance about the consequences of pursuing particular occupational pathways, and are not engaged in any formal opportunities to debate gender and ethnic stereotyping as related to the labour market.

Why is it important?

This is particularly worrying for females, who populate apprenticeships in sectors with lower completion rates and levels of pay, and which create less opportunity for progression. In addition, the research reveals that young people from non-White backgrounds are more reliant on ‘official’ sources of guidance (as opposed to friends and families) for their labour market knowledge.


Vanessa Beck
University of Bristol

The article argues that, because good-quality apprenticeships can provide a strong platform for lifelong learning and career progression, young people need much more detailed information about how to compare a work-based pathway with full-time education. At the same time, they also need to understand that apprenticeships (and jobs more generally) in some sectors may result in very limited opportunities for career advancement.

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