Tackling gender segregation in the Modern Apprenticeship programme

Alyson Laird is a PhD research student at Glasgow Caledonian University. She works within the WiSE Research Centre which seeks to promote and make visible women’s contribution to Scotland’s economy. Her PhD research focuses on gender segregation in the Modern Apprenticeship programme in Scotland.

Alyson visited our Kilwinning Campus recently to have a chat about our approach to tackling gender imbalance in courses and apprenticeships. We invited Alyson to share the aims of her research with us in our blog.

I haven’t always been passionate about gender equality and feminism, but an inspiring lecturer at GCU encouraged me to think differently about the economy and society we live in. Since then, I have had a desire to be part of the change needed to tackle inequalities in our society, specifically gender inequalities.

My research focuses around the Modern Apprenticeship programme, and more specifically the gender segregation which exists within the programme. Gender segregation is where women and men are more likely to be found in jobs stereotypically associated with their gender. For example, less than 2% of those participating in construction and related apprenticeship frameworks are women – that’s only 77 out of over 5,000 participants! My research asks why this is the case and what is being done to change it.

Is it a problem?

This is a question I hear often. Maybe girls just want to work in childcare and hairdressing and boys want to work on building sites and shipyards? These are statements I hear when I discuss my research with people who aren’t aware of the extent of the problem.

Yes, it is a problem.

It’s a problem because the youngest members of our society are taught from a very early age that there are jobs for girls and jobs for boys. Arguably, things are changing – schools, for instance, are making massive changes in this area. You only have to watch kids’ TV for an afternoon or go into a toy shop to notice that gender stereotyping is everywhere. Girls play with dolls and dress up as princesses. Boys play with Lego and pretend to be superheroes. The world around children at the earliest ages can have an impact on the careers they decide to embark on later on.

It’s a problem because we have a gender pay gap, a situation where women in society are being paid less than men in society and much of this is to do with women and men being in jobs stereotypically associated with their gender. The jobs which women are most visible in are those which typically offer lower pay and are often under-valued in our society. Think of the important work that social care workers do? Why are they not being paid a better wage for the job they do, a job that requires a unique set of skills and recognised qualifications?

I don’t think it is just a case of girls wanting to do stereotypical women’s jobs and boys wanting to do stereotypical men’s jobs. I think there are structural and cultural constraints which influence the choices young people make, and hinder accessibility to certain sectors. And I think the Modern Apprenticeship programme has a massive role to play in helping to eliminate existing stereotypes.

What will I do?

There are over 25,000 young people starting apprenticeships every year in Scotland. The most popular apprenticeships are those within Construction & Related frameworks and those within Health & Social Care frameworks. These occupational groups are also the most gender segregated.

My research is looking at both – challenging what is being done to get more women into construction and addressing the low esteem within health & social care frameworks. I am doing this by firstly talking to as many stakeholders as possible. So, I am speaking to places like Ayrshire College who have been proactive in engaging with both sides of the issue through events like ThisAyrshireGirlCan and ThisManCares. The contribution from stakeholders is valuable, it allows me to explore what is going on in the Modern Apprenticeship programme and enhances my understanding of who does what in terms of funding and recruitment for example.

Secondly, I will chat with Modern Apprentices themselves – firstly through a survey and then through interviews. It is important that the voice of apprentices themselves comes through strongly within this research. The story the apprentices tell about their journey to do a Modern Apprenticeship, who influenced them, what challenges they faced, why they chose that particular route, is one of the most important parts of my research. It tells the real story of what’s going on and how things could be improved from people who have lived the experience.

Finally, I will engage with employers, asking them what they are doing to support apprentices and how they can play a role in improving gender equality within the programme.

Why am I doing this?

Because I want to see change.

The changes happening are too slow, the figures over the last ten years have hardly changed. I wonder why with all the efforts to make young people aware of what’s out there and with all the events which take place to encourage non-traditional careers, what has been missed? Hopefully my research will start to try and answer this question and I can help contribute to positive change for women in our society.

If you would like more information about my research please contact me at:

Alyson.Laird@gcu.ac.uk or follow my Twitter feed @AlysonLaird



This Man Cares – Paul McGuffie

Ayrshire College encourages the promotion, training and recruitment of men in early years childcare courses and inspires more men to consider a career in childcare. 

Men can bring different perspectives and new ideas to the job and be positive role models for children.

Paul McGuffie


Paul McGuffie, of Galston, has no regrets that he swapped his previous job of sixteen years as a driver for Barrs, before going to college to study childcare.  He felt that childcare was a career path he would like to pursue when his own children were younger. Paul initially studied NC Early Education and Childcare, before moving on to successfully complete HNC Early Education and Childcare at Ayrshire College

Dorothy Bell, Lecturer, Early Education said “Paul achieved a high level of work in his HNC Early Education and Childcare. He had excellent placement feedback and achieved glowing reports about his use of initiative and interaction with children and staff. This led to him securing employment at Shortlees Early Childhood and Family Centre.”

Paul has been employed with Shortlees ever since, and now works with 3 to 6 year old children.  He would like to continue studying and further enhance his skills with the aim of going to university to study BA Childhood Studies.

About his time at the College, Dorothy Bell also commented “Paul continued to provide mentoring support for subsequent male students. He has always been a role model and ambassador for Early Years.  It is crucial to encourage men into childcare as children benefit from having a positive male role model, and having a balance of men and women in the workforce brings different approaches, outlooks and styles to working with children”.

Paul said “It’s very important for children to have female and male role models, to help them develop, but also, for different kinds of understanding, interaction and play.  I’m passionate that more men should be encouraged to work in the industry”.

Early Education course applications are open for August 2016. Find out more about courses, email Lynsey.reid@ayrshire.ac.uk or phone 01294 559000 ext 3249.


This Man Cares – Gary Reid

When the daughter of 49-year-old househusband Gary Reid was accepted onto Ayrshire College’s HNC Health Care course in 2012, he never imagined he would be following in her footsteps a few years later.

Gary Reid


Gary had written himself off and did not think a return to education was an option for him.

However, when his daughter Rebecca could not attend her course induction, Gary went along to gather the information for her.

He was impressed with what he heard, but it was not until Rebecca qualified and got a job as a nurse that Gary decided to enquire about the course for himself.

Gary had plenty of experience to draw on; he has “always been the one people come to”. He nursed his Dad when he passed away with cancer, and helped his Mum with her diabetes, dementia and then latterly heart problems. The care sector was his calling – he just thought he had missed the boat.

Yet Gary has proved that you are never too old to start a new career. After attending Ayrshire College’s ‘This Man Cares’ event, he enrolled on the Pathways to Care course.

“That event was definitely what made my mind up”, Gary said.  “I’m almost 50 years old – I’d written myself off. I wish I’d done this ten years ago.”

Explaining why he is doing it now, Gary said “Basically, Rebecca had moved in with me four years ago, and where we lived wasn’t far from the College’s Ayr campus. So, I said to her “you’re not sitting about here doing nothing – get yourself along to the College and see what they’ve got to offer you”.

“She had expressed an interest in becoming a nurse previously and said there was a Care course that she was interested in but that she had an appointment somewhere else and couldn’t get to the induction.

“So I went along instead to get her all the forms, and seeing how well the course had set her up got me interested.”

Although Gary has followed his daughter Rebecca into the same course, he has no plans to mirror Rebecca’s career path and become a hospital nurse. Instead he wants to go into either nurseries or nursing homes – a decision he will make next year when he’s working towards an HNC in Care.

He speaks with pride when he talks about his daughter’s progress.

Gary said “I’m made up with how she turned her life around in the last four years – and it’s all down to this course. If she hadn’t have done this course, I’m not sure what she’d be doing now.

“With the nursing I know she’s doing something positive with her life.”

Jackie McLellan, Head of Learning and Skills for Care at Ayrshire College said “We are keen for men who are considering a career in care to be aware of the support that’s available if they do apply to College.”
Find out more about courses by emailing Lynsey.reid@ayrshire.ac.uk or phoning 01294 559000 ext 3249.

This Man Cares – Calum McFadzean

Young people need positive role models. Calum McFadzean, HNC Social Care is one such role model.



Calum knew that he wanted to work with teenagers, especially after a course placement and voluntary work with the Lighthouse Foundation in Kilmarnock while studying at Ayrshire College. In his time there, he worked tirelessly to deliver information to Ayrshire’s young people on the negative impact that alcohol and drugs can have on a young person’s life.

Over the last few years, he has volunteered hundreds of hours to charity, sharing his hard hitting story to over 2000 young people in Ayrshire.

Social Care lecturer Linda Malone said “Calum is a great example of how a young man can turn his life around with perseverance, hard work, education and training.”

Calum now has a full-time permanent contract with Aspire Scotland which is an organisation which provides residential care and education for vulnerable children and young people.

Aspire Scotland is committed to transforming the lives of children and young people facing serious challenges in their life, providing a range of services from education to day care to full residential care.

About his everyday work, Calum said “We support young people to achieve better lives. Every day is different working in the social care industry – some days are definitely more challenging than others! It is so rewarding helping young people get back on track, teaching them life skills and helping them get to where they want to be.”

Caroline Penman, Residential Services Manager at Aspire said “Calum is professional and engaging with our young people. He has become a real role model. He supports our young people in all aspects of daily life including self-care, independence and education and leans on his experiences to promote positive outcomes, which is an ethos central to working in social care.”

Social Care course applications are open for August 2016. Early application is advised as the courses are very popular.

Find out more about courses, contact Lynsey.reid@ayrshire.ac.uk or phone 01294 559000 ext 3249.

From professional footballer to nurse

Choosing to be a nurse is a great decision. There are so many incredible career opportunities all over the world. It’s a highly respected profession with job security and a good salary and pension. Nurses are always needed and the work is interesting – every day is different. There are plenty chances for career progression. So, how do you get started?

From footballer to nurse, student Martin Ure talks to us about starting his journey to retrain as a mental health nurse so that he can help make a difference to the quality of life of many people.

Martin Ure

I am doing the Access to Nursing course which will give me the entry requirements needed to start a nursing degree at university. I don’t have enough qualifications to go straight into university so an “Access” course is the perfect way to start my career.

I’ve been working as a support worker in a secure mental health unit so it is mental health nursing I really want do. I find my work with these patients really interesting especially learning about the different illnesses and how each is diagnosed and treated. I am fascinated about how the brain works.

While I was there as a support worker, I noticed there was a lack of male nurses. Some patients are more comfortable talking to another man or would prefer to have their personal care supported by a male nurse. I know there is a demand for male nurses and together with my increasing interest in mental health my mind was made up to take a big step and retrain as a nurse.

It really is a great course and we cover a wide range of subjects. We get good support from the lecturers. It has been a shock to the system to return to learning after eleven years however it’s quite a mature class and we all help each other out. I think the difference is that we have all chosen what we want to do and are more focused, with our mind set on getting in to university. As a mature student I find it much easier to study compared to when I was at school. My dedication has taken me and my family completely by surprise.

I have got a whole new future ahead of me – this is the career I am going to be doing for the rest of my life. It’s a far cry from where I was when I left school. At the age of sixteen I was offered a professional contract with Rangers and played with them for two and half years followed by a stint with Queens Park. I had various jobs after this and now only play football to keep fit.

I think there are more men becoming interested in nursing than ever before which is really encouraging as it’s a career that can suit both male and females. It’s a really challenging job where every day is different. You can make a difference to a patient’s quality of living just by making small changes or taking time to listen or observe.

I am easy going and approachable and I have quite a resilient personality – which you need in mental health nursing! It is very important to have good communication skills so this means showing you are listening and being able to speak to people. You have got to build up the patients trust and make assessments which will affect their care. Sometimes you have to be persistent and encouraging with patients to help them engage with their treatment.

I am looking forward to being part of a team and to be doing a job that I enjoy and get satisfaction from helping people when they are at their most vulnerable.


The Access to Nursing course runs three days a week from 9am – 4pm in Kilmarnock and Kilwinning. Course applications are open for August 2016. Early application is advised as this course is very popular.

To find out more email Lynsey.reid@ayrshire.ac.uk or phone 01294 559000 ext 3249.

This Man Cares – Ali Coughtrie

Ali coughtrie - Men in CareAyrshire College is holding a Men in Care event on 26 May 2016 to encourage men to consider a career in the health and social care sector. This sector is expanding and demand for qualified staff is set to rise.
In this blog series we find out more about men making a career in health, social care and early years.

First, we speak to Ali Coughtrie who started his career as a tree surgeon and is now retraining for a career in counselling.

I am a tree surgeon to trade and I have worked in environmental education, through which I have been involved in mountain rescue. Throughout my life I have been relatively unaware of the care sector as, other than the doctor and dentist, I have not used these services. However, when my mum had a stroke it made me think about health and the support services that help us to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

It was a defining moment and I made a life-changing decision to retrain in health and social care. Initially, I investigated the Scottish Ambulance Service with a view to becoming a passenger transport assistant. I soon realised that all my qualifications and experience were related to my previous jobs in the outdoors and I needed to get some relevant qualifications.

I enrolled in a NC Health and Social Care course which was a great foundation for my learning. I was honoured to receive an award for excellence at the end of my course. During the NC course I loved the psychology classes so much that this year I am studying the HNC Counselling course. I was encouraged to get involved in volunteering to gain relevant experience. I work on the South Ayrshire Befriending Project and I am also doing driver training with the Ayrshire Hospice.

Counselling is a therapy that allows a person to talk about their problems and feelings in a confidential and dependable environment. A counsellor is trained to listen with empathy, by putting themselves in your shoes. They can help you deal with any negative thoughts and feelings you have. Although at the end of this course I can’t practise as a counsellor as I need supervised experience, it is a stepping stone to other courses that will enable me to become a counsellor. Some people in my class are going on to university to study Psychology and train as a psychologist. Another option which we can consider is a Diploma in Counselling through the Glasgow Therapy Centre. Here you get 180 hours of 1-1 counselling experience and 20 hours of group counselling. Another pathway I can explore is Mindfulness and Yoga training as I practise and enjoy both of these.

Counselling is a fascinating area of study where you learn about which approaches are best for a particular client. I’ve got a lot out of this course, especially more self-awareness as we are encouraged to keep journals of our everyday experiences. I’ve changed how I respond to situations, as I stop and think now before I speak and I am even more open minded.

I’ve also been given opportunities to attend NHS short courses on a range of interesting topics including dementia, legal highs and child protection. I have enjoyed interacting with a wide variety of people on these courses and it has enhanced the learning we do at college.

I was a bit worried before I came to the college that I would be the only man. However, there are about six men out of twenty on the course, and I have a number of friends and colleagues through my volunteering that are male, so I think things are changing and there is more of a mixed workforce now. I think it’s important to have both male and female staff in the care sector because clients may respond better to the care giver if they feel more comfortable with a man or woman.

I would encourage others who are thinking of changing their career to give the care profession a go. If you are a good listener, have empathy, enjoy working with people and can be non-judgemental – it could be for you. You need to be prepared to be self-critical and take on board constructive criticism from your colleagues. It’s a rewarding career where you can help people who find themselves in a vulnerable position.


The HNC Counselling course runs three days a week from 9am – 4pm in Ayr. Course applications are open for August 2016. Early application is advised as this course is very popular. To find out more please email Lynsey.reid@ayrshire.ac.uk or phone 01294 559000 ext 3249.