A "nervousness" around the term 'apprenticeship' could be why more than two-thirds of higher level apprenticeship participants in Northern Ireland are male, it's been claimed.
The Department for the Economy found 66.1% of participants in 2018/19 were male at 464, almost double the number of females at 238.
Higher-level apprenticeships (HLAs) offer training and a recognised qualification up to Masters level while in paid employment. Most are provided at foundation degree level.
The statistics also found there was a 40% increase in HLA new starts in 2018/19 (452) compared with the previous academic year (324).
Business advisory firm PwC and Queen's University offer a fully-funded four-year technology degree apprenticeship. It currently has 40 students on the apprenticeship scheme with another 20 places up for grabs in September.
Stephanie Gowdy, student recruitment senior manager at PwC, said that males are typically more inclined to take an apprenticeship but her firm was working to address the gender imbalance.
"There is still a nervousness around the term apprenticeship and we have a double-edged challenge as technology is typically a male-heavy industry," she said. "We have established relationships to tackle problem areas such as diversity.
"The national average of females studying computer science is 16%. Across the two HLA QUB Tech intakes we've 32% females.
"We've supported programmes such as Bring IT on, Belfast IT girls, Sentinus, mTech Academy to create awareness around the programme."
The Department for the Economy said there were 702 participants on HLA programmes in 2018/19, with the most popular subject area engineering and manufacturing technologies. Almost two in every five (38.3%) HLA participants were studying in this area.
Richard Kirk, director of Workplus, said the figures demonstrate that companies are "really starting to see the value" in HLAs. The firm, which helps employers develop talent through apprenticeships, recently announced it was creating 120 apprenticeship opportunities this year, with around 60% of these at higher level.
"Employers get bright, focused and ambitious people who ensure their companies have the skillset needed to remain competitive," he said. "Higher level apprentices get real jobs as well as access to training and professional networks that will transform their lives. Many are getting degrees while earning and will graduate with no student debt but lots of career experience.
"The report shows that the largest relative increase in higher level apprentices is in construction, planning and the built environment which has been a focus for Workplus since 2016."
He added: "Many companies in this area didn't have apprenticeships before then but we're helping them change their culture around talent intake."