The total number of registered apprentices is currently 12,167.
Primary responsibility for the recruitment of apprentices rests with employers, with FÁS and the educational system providing the off the job element of training. FÁS are implementing, in relation to female apprentices, a positive action programme in favour of women one of whose objectives is to increase significantly the rate of female participation in apprenticeship over the three year period 1990-93. As a result, there has been an increase in the number of female apprentices from 117 at the end of 1989 to a current level of 145, an increase of 29 per cent. The action programme has been developed in such a manner as to encourage and help more and more women to participate in sectors that have been traditionally dominated by men in the growth sectors of the economy. However, such initiatives cannot be successful without the active support and commitment of employers and I would urge employers to sponsor female apprentices. In order to provide an additional incentive to companies and potential female apprentices, FÁS have intitiated bursaries in 1990 for new female apprentices to assist with apprenticeship support costs during the off the job training period. The results of these initiatives will be evaluated and it is my intention to request FÁS to expand these initiatives where possible.
The general question of equality and equity in relation to apprentice recruitment has been addressed in the review of apprenticeship undertaken by FÁS at my request. These proposals are currently being examined in the context of the negotiation of a programme for economic and social development.