Increasing risk in the ‘scary’ world of work? Male and female resistance to crossing gender lines in apprenticeships in England and Wales

Vanessa Beck, Alison Fuller, Lorna Unwin
  • Journal of Education and Work, July 2006, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/13639080600776920

Male and female resistance to crossing gender lines in apprenticeships in England and Wales

What is it about?

This paper is based on research conducted as part of the Equal Opportunities Commission’s General Formal Investigation into gender segregation in the United Kingdom labour market. The project comprised a survey of and focus groups with 14/15 year-olds in eight English schools in spring 2004 and a survey of 15/16 year-olds in four Welsh schools in autumn 2004. The survey explored the process of young people’s career decision-making, their attitudes to career choice and whether apprenticeship was seen as an option.

Why is it important?

Experiences and perceptions of respondents suggest that decisions about their future career options are based in part on risk avoidance strategies but also on a willingness to take risks where it will advance an individual’s interests. By utilising Beck’s concept of risk, the authors reveal the dilemmas which young people face as they consider their post- school futures. The data show that boys are less likely than girls to opt for a job traditionally held by the opposite sex. In addition, the paper examines the implications of the finding that access to and the quality of careers information and guidance remain very varied.


Vanessa Beck
University of Bristol

From the perspective of young people, the idea of mechanisms designed to facilitate a gradual transition to a non-traditional occupation were appealing. Girls, in particular, seemed more willing than boys to consider trying out a traditionally male occupation via work experience, probationary periods and so on. The idea of committing to a non-traditional occupation on the basis of minimal experience and knowledge was a deterrent which could be reduced by the introduction of bridging initiatives.

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