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9 August 2018, 09:28
The number of women completing apprenticeships has fallen to the lowest level for seven years, figures have revealed.
The 7,986 recorded in 2017-18 was more than 400 less than the previous year's total of 8,429 and meant over 1,000 fewer women gained the qualification than they did in 2013-14, when 8,992 of those finishing apprenticeships were female.
According to the figures, provided by Skills Minister Jamie Hepburn, the number of females completing apprenticeships was the lowest since 2011-12, when the total was 7,199.
The data was released in response to parliamentary questions from Labour education spokeswoman Mary Fee, who said the fall is a "real cause for concern".
In almost two-thirds of local authority areas - 20 out of 32 councils - the number of women completing apprenticeships fell between 2016-17 and 2017-18.
In North Lanarkshire, there were 89 fewer than the previous year, with the total falling from 734 to 645.
In Glasgow City Council, Scotland's largest local authority, the number of females finishing apprenticeships went from 917 to 874, a reduction of 43.
In June figures showed little growth in the number of women taking up apprenticeships in recent years - with 10,451 starting training in 2017-18, compared with 10,445 in 2013-14.
Ms Fee is now calling on the Scottish Government to investigate why the number of women qualifying as apprentices is declining.
The Labour MSP said: "These figures should be a real cause for concern, we should be taking every step possible to ensure opportunities for women, instead we have seen a drop of 1,000 completions in the last four years.
"We need to know why there has been a fall and invest more in getting women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) apprenticeships in particular.
"One factor might be the rising cost of living, with some apprentices simply not being able to afford to finish their scheme.
"The Government should launch an investigation into this as a matter of priority."