The male only apprentice group

June O'Sullivan
Monday, January 27, 2020

Can we do this? Will we break the law? The HR director rolled his eyes and said Ohhhhh, let me double check! I said: “Make it happen, It is hugely necessary”. Why? Because less than four per cent of the early years sector are male.

We have been campaigning for over 10 years to increase men into childcare to build a more gender inclusive workplace. We have asked parents and children and they are all in favour so we have to try as many things as possible. 84% parents want to see more men working in childcare. That’s a pretty positive number!

We know from colleagues in Scotland such as the work done by Alice Sharp that having dads only training cohorts helps. Work done by Men in Childcare Scotland and Men in Childcare Ireland as well as our European colleagues has also shown that training male only groups tends to deliver a more positive outcome. The Fatherhood Institute, funded to lead the MITEY campaigns, also supports the idea of male only groups. It works for training students in colleges so let’s try it with male apprentices. The University of Lancaster is currently doing more research on the issue, led by Dr Jo Warin.

As a practical employer I wanted to do something. Targeting young male apprentices hasn’t been done, so let’s try it. Why an apprenticeship? Because I love apprentices. Some of our best staff have been those who learned the job, helped build the organisational culture and have become our greatest advocates and critics. If you want to check if what we say on the tin is actually happening in the nursery, then ask an apprentice. They give it to you straight! Many of our apprentices have moved right through the ranks and are senior in the organisation. We have recently appointed a staff member to the role of apprentice manager, she started her career with us 16 years ago as an apprentice herself.

To learn from this experience, we will work with our partners the University of Wolverhampton to assess the programme and identify the learning which we will share with the sector. I am hoping to see my current 8.2 per cent of male staff increase. I would really like to hit 10 per cent.

So, what is not to like about a male cohort of apprentices? We are combining a great way of learning, even if we are still a bit snooty about apprenticeships. Thinking university is better. What nonsense. Combining work with training has been popular since apprentices were put on the Statute in 1563 so they stand the test of time.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive at London Early Years Foundation. This blog first appeared on the LEYF website

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