Amendment No. 1 and the amendment to the amendment are related and may be discussed together.
Industrial Training (Apprenticeship Levy) Bill, 1993: Committee and Final Stages.
I thank the House for taking this Bill after the disagreement on the Order of Business.
Is amendment No. 1 being taken with amendment No. 2?
No. Amendment No. 1 and the amendment to the amendment may be discussed together.
During Report Stage in the Dáil I accepted an amendment from Deputy Quill, which is now section 3 (1) (b). I pointed out to Deputy Quill that I was partial to what she put forward and that I would accept her amendment, but that the wording would be subject to change in the light of views expressed by the parliamentary draftsperson.
I accepted the amendment on the floor of the House without putting it to the draftsman for any textual changes which would be needed. Deputy Quill graciously agreed that it would be subject to such scrutiny. I have since received the advice of the parliamentary draftsman and a number of changes are necessary. The officials in my Department went back to Deputy Quill with these changes and she agreed they were in line with the thrust of her amendment. I say this in case the House thinks I am trying to pull a fast one on what Deputy Quill had proposed in the Dáil. These amendments do not detract from the thrust of Deputy Quill's proposal and she has agreed to them. They are necessary to ensure the wording is legally correct. It was necessary to change the preamble to the subsection as the original wording suggested that the factors outlined in paragraphs (i), (ii) and (iii) would have to reflected in any designated sector. This would not be possible and is not what Deputy Quill sought. My amendment, which provides for what she advocated, proposes that the Minister of the day will consider the various factors in paragraphs (i), (ii) and (iii) and, where appropriate, take them into account.
A further amendment deals with the emerging needs of women. I have been advised that this cannot be provided for in law. I have, therefore, produced an alternative form of word to signal that the potential for recruitment of men and women will be considered. The revised wording in paragraphs (ii) and (iii) reflects in legal language the terms Deputy Quill sought in relation to new and emerging areas of industrial activity and the potential for gaining multiple skills.
Senator Quinn's amendment also deals with this. He proposes that the scope of apprenticeships be extended to the widest practicable range of industrial activities. As I mentioned on Second Stage, I am considering the development of a traineeship system — I know the Senator does not have any difficulties with this terminology — which will be similar to, but more flexible than, apprenticeship training. This new system will introduce training and certification into a whole series of work activities, for example, retail sales. I know in his retail outlets Senator Quinn has already engaged in this process, as have other retail outlets in sectors other than the grocery and allied trades. I am having talks with people in these trades.
The word "apprenticeship" means a period during which one learns a trade. Apprenticeships in Ireland have been linked to physical trades, such as plumbing, baking and candlestick making. These are fine trades which have been, and will always be, needed. I want to extend the system to wider areas, such as banking, retail sales, hairdressing and other activities. If I called this scheme an apprenticeship one, I fear it would be linked to a great deal of bureaucratic arrangements, which I want to simplify. I will call them traineeships but they will be in the spirit of what Senator Quinn proposes. Where appropriate, the new apprenticeship/traineeship system will be developed in new areas of industrial activity. In this connection, subsection (ii) of my amendment provides that before making an order designating a sector for the purposes of the levy, the Minister shall have to consider whether the sector to be designated is a new or developing area of industrial activity.
I feel — and I hope Senator Quinn and the House will agree — that in this amendment we have managed to the best of our ability to put the thrust of Deputy Quill's amendment into the form proposed by the parliamentary draftsman. We explained this to her and she agrees with it.
Second, the thrust of Senator Quinn's amendment has been encompassed in subsection (2). His amendment expands this idea into new and emerging needs, and I agree with him. Our young people need authoritative certification which can be verified and will be a passport, at home and abroad, for them to ply their business or trade. This is the purpose of this legislation but also the wider remit of the national certification in education and training which will be a matter for discussion on another day. I would like to think that what I have put forward here encompasses the views of Deputy Quill and Senator Quinn.
I thank the Minister for the words she used and I understand the point exactly. I will not comment on the reference to Deputy Quill's amendments and how they have been readjusted; I will take the Minister's word for that. However, are we discussing my amendment to the amendment at this point?
Yes, I was about to ask the Senator if he was going to move his amendment. It is being discussed now.
There were two points to which I would like to draw the Minister's attention.
Is the Senator moving his amendment?
He wants to talk about it.
We must get the order right.
I was taking a long way of saying that based on what the Minister said I would consider withdrawing the amendment. I was making two points in the amendment which I was anxious the Minister would understand — not just extending the scope of the apprenticeship approach but it being a matter of "urgency". The Minister would probably have some difficulty accepting the word "urgency" in legislation but it is necessary to reflect the urgency in the legislation as well as the broadening of the scope.
The Minister spoke about the value to young people of a certificate which says they have served their time in an apprenticeship or have achieved a certain level of training, especially when they leave Ireland. The scope of the apprenticeship approach needs to be widened a great deal and I am happy to accept the Minister's words. I have not yet heard her views on the second aspect of my amendment which deals with urgency. If she could put my mind at rest on that I would consider withdrawing the amendment.
I compliment the Minister on speedily acknowledging that there may be a fear about the narrow definition of "apprenticeship". She said that we must extend the scope of what apprenticeship means. We must take into account not alone training in the craft but the wide ranging skills required so that these people will be ready to deal with all aspects of skills and technological changes when they are working at home or abroad. The Minister is aware of that and has intimated that she will acknowledge the urgency of it.
In extending the scope, does the Minister envisage discussing this matter with FÁS, the employers, etc., and returning to the situation where a far greater number of people and companies are involved in taking on apprentices? I mentioned local authorities on Second Stage. I have details of a proposal that would, in real terms, lift the hearts of many young people around this country, in the cities and areas of high unemployment. At no real cost to the State, it would provide the opportunity for people from different areas, at different stages of their apprenticeships, to get involved in building a small number of local authority houses. Many people who have completed two or three years of their apprenticeship have been unable to find further work to enable them to finish. I suggest that the Minister will enter into negotiations because this is an opportunity to give hope to thousands of young people who do not have any at the moment.
I thank Senator Quinn for his positive approach towards wider designation. He asked me to show my bona fides in relation to the words “proactive” and “urgency” which are used in his amendment. It is easy for me to show my personal bona fides, and I do so gladly and willingly. I am inclined to be proactive and urgent about many things but I am not always able to bring everybody with me. Some of the answers to Senator Quinn will also be relevant to remarks made by Senator Farrelly and Senator Ormonde today and on Second Stage.
What have we done to engage people in wider discussion about involving more young people in trades? In preparation for the Programme for Competitiveness and Work our section of the Department proposed that a wider designation of trades be included in the programme. The officials with me today were very active in that area. The words “urgency” and “proactive” are not in the programme but it does provide that there is to be a wider designation of trades. We have again received word from Europe that they are keen on our standards based apprenticeship system. They also asked when we are going to implement the rest of it and provide for wider designation. There is an imperative both at home and abroad that we do it.
As part of the next phase of our talks with IBEC, ICTU and CIF, we are arranging a series of meetings with Aer Lingus, Aer Rianta, the county councils, Bord na Móna, the ESB, the Defence Forces and the Naval Forces, areas which deal with apprenticeships. I will ask them to a meeting in my Department and put it to them that not taking on apprentices represents a loss to the country and to their organisations. Following on from the positive remarks made, in particular by Senator Farrelly in that regard, we have taken this step with the county councils and a number of other organisations.
To return to Senator Quinn's point, it would be difficult to provide for urgency and proactivity in legislation. I am, however, both urgent and proactive about this. There may be others who do not feel the same way but I am pursuing the remit of my job, which is to move forward on this standards based apprenticeship/traineeship. I am prepared to come back to the House and report progress. I suggest that we mark time for three months or until early autumn to see what progress we have made in the area of apprenticeships. I would then be able to give an account of myself and the scheme. I thank Senator Ormonde for her positive remarks.
I am happy to say that I am withdrawing the amendment to amendment No. 1 on the grounds that the Minister has assured me of her personal commitment. I hope that by stitching this into the record of the House as the Minister has done we will also ensure that this principle will be passed on to future Ministers, although I am sure the Minister will hold her present office for a long time.
In regard to the bringing together of all these people and the county councils, the Minister must have clear in her mind where the councils can actually employ apprentices. Many councils are not directly involved in building their own houses at the moment. The building of these houses is out on contract. We are aware of many qualified tradesmen who are unemployed and who could be employed training apprentices on sites. Houses will be built on several sites in my own county this year. Meath this year will provide 90 new starts.
An apprenticeship system taking about two to three months longer to complete the houses, employing 60 apprentices in total, could look after 30 houses, one third of the number of houses being built. If that was applied across the country it would amount to 3,000. This is realistic; it is not a figure pulled out of the sky. It can work by having one scheme in each county and a number in the cities and by asking the councils involved to zone in on the areas where there are huge numbers of young people unemployed who want an opportunity to do something positive. The councils do not have any idea at this stage about going down this road. The Minister has to lead them in that direction. That is the only comment I wish to make. Ask the county councils to examine this proposal to see how it would work in each county.
At a meeting with CIF we got a similar proposal into the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. It will be under review. The possibility of making it a term of public sector construction contracts that an agreed number of apprentices should be employed on such contracts will now be examined by the Government in consultation with the relevant interests. I intend to make that the agenda for the county councils and all the other agencies I bring in. I hope to work on that, but I realise that I will be told that people do not have the money and do not have the opportunities.
It is only a matter of rearranging the money.
That is correct. I wished to bring that to the Senator's attention.
I move amendment No. 2:
In page 5, between lines 2 and 3, to insert the following paragraph:
"(d) ensure that under the proposed apprenticeship arrangements for the designated trade, all suitably qualified applicants will have an equal chance of obtaining a place on an apprenticeship, decided against criteria which are clearly set out and available for public inspection.".
We know what the position is with FÁS: they are put on a list and employers arrive asking for somebody. They get an opportunity to look at the list, they say that no one on the list is suitable and then they go outside and pick somebody; or they come into FÁS and say they have someone picked without looking at the list. There is a problem here. Could we have a situation where FÁS would not be blamed for not being forthright with builders and other interested people who are looking for apprentices? They could have interviews carried out, with shortlists of suitable people in each category.
The Senator is talking about FÁS?
Yes, asking FÁS to do this, so that when a person arrives to the office looking for somebody, the FÁS officer would have interviewed and short-listed the most suitable people concerned. I wonder whether the amendment could be accepted so that we might ensure that everybody gets a fair crack of the whip and eliminate the situation where the employer arrives with the name of a person who is not on the list but who is placed on the list and is then taken on by that employer. This is an opportunity to try to ensure that this practice ceases.
I touched on this area on Second Stage. The Minister acknowledged that perhaps there is a role here for the guidance counsellor. We can play a very big role in co-operation between the school and the employer. Most young people are aged 16 when they begin apprenticeships, so they are coming from the school system. Therefore, if they are to go into FÁS they cannot just walk out of school without some guidance as to where they should go in order to get an apprenticeship. The employer can go to FÁS, but FÁS has got the information through us as guidance counsellors, through the educational system. FÁS are not needed to that extent; employers can go directly to the schools, as apprentices begin training at 16.
Guidance counsellors can play a role with the employer. FÁS should have a role in the recruitment possibilities for this age group because we are talking about training and apprenticeships. Perhaps there is a looseness there. I know the Minister referred to it in her reply the last day and Senator Farrelly is touching on it again, so the Minister knows what we are getting at in relation to that looseness.
In general terms Senator Farrelly's amendment deals with the problem of equity in the recruitment of apprentices. During the course of the Second Stage debate on this Bill in this House I dealt in some detail with my concerns about the issue of equity. I outlined how I intended to approach the problem. We have already introduced certain measures in that regard. In their response most Senators expressed similar concerns; indeed everyone who spoke expressed concerns about the non-transparency and the perceived inequity of access to apprenticeships and agreed that something needed to be done. Rather than go through the entire debate again I would like briefly to outline what we now intend to do.
Section 4 of the Bill will enable the Minister of the day to make regulations governing the recruitment of apprentices to ensure that such recruitment is undertaken in a fair and equitable manner. Section 4 (2) provides that a resolution approved by both Houses will be necessary before the regulations can be introduced; accordingly, Senators would have the opportunity at that time to discuss those proposed regulations. This is all new. This was not in the Bill or in the system of access to apprenticeship. At this stage, however, we intend to develop and operate over a trial period of two years a code of practice to be followed by employers in the recruitment of apprentices. The code has been developed and has already come before the board of FÁS. It is now being discussed by the major social partners involved in the apprenticeship sphere, following which they would adopt, endorse and promote the code among their members.
The new Programme for Competitiveness and Work will ensure that the social partners would be committed to the adoption to this code of practice as it is enunciated in the programme. I recognise quite clearly that there is a degree of doubt and scepticism when one talks about codes of practice. I found this myself when I was dealing with the Consumer Credit Bill because the finance houses said they have a regulatory body looking after their own activities. I said to them: “Well, tell me another”, “You would, wouldn't you?” or words to that effect.
Self-regulation goes back to the Latin tag, Quis custodiat custodies? Who guards the guards? Of course, in self-regulation that is the answer one gets. Even though public money is going into the apprenticeship system via Europe and the Exchequer and private money from employers, it is still an individual contract between an employer and an employee. How far you can go down the road of interference in that is something that I am going to test out by having this voluntary code of practice whose implementation will be endorsed and monitored by the central review committee.
In deference to the concerns expressed by the social partners about the compulsory route, I am prepared to give the code a trial period. In dealing with IBEC, the CIF and ICTU, I have received a measure of positive reaction to the voluntary code, though it took some time. I would hope that the debates in the Lower House and in this House would be mandatory reading for every member of the FÁS board and the apprenticeship sub-committee of FÁS. I really mean that, because when I set out to bring sense and shape into this system there were many who said that we could not even go down the road of a voluntary code of practice. I am glad to think that now we have brought it around a bit. The compulsory approach remains a possibility if over a trial period the code is not seen to be effective. In conjunction with the central review committee I will be monitoring this very carefully and if we are not convinced that it is working I will have no hesitation whatsoever in introducing appropriate regulations to deal with the problem.
I would like to comment on what Senator Ormonde said about the need to involve career guidance counsellors. As part of a wider consultation I am going to meet the official group representing the guidance counsellors. Senator Ormonde said, perhaps inadvertently, that FÁS would not have to be involved to the degree that they are. FÁS has the statutory responsibility, endorsed by both Houses, of being the agency with responsibility for career guidance, following advice from other agencies, including the Department of Education. Much as other agencies or organisations might request that it would be otherwise, this is and will remain the case. In general, FÁS has a fine, open approach to it.
Senator Farrelly's amendment states that:
.....all suitably qualified applicants will have an equal chance of obtaining a place on an apprenticeship, decided against criteria which are clearly set out and available for public inspection.
The voluntary code of practice will be set out clearly. I would have reservations about making people available for public inspection — by that I mean individuals and their circumstances. I do not think that would be correct and that is why I have queried the words "public inspection". I think, however, that Senator Farrelly meant the criteria which would be involved in such access and I share that viewpoint. FÁS will have lists of those that present themselves. Because it is an employment contract there has to be some involvement by the social partners — the employer and employee — in it. That is recognised in the board of FÁS and its apprenticeship sub-committee. We are going to put the voluntary code of practice in place and I would like to see that avenue work satisfactorily. We will regularly monitor and evaluate how it is working. If it is found to be unsuitable we will take the legislative route of compulsion. I want to give the voluntary code a chance in deference to the current spirit of agreement on this matter.
I accept that the Minister has gone some way down the road and a voluntary code of practice is certainly a help. The point I raised, however, was in connection with FÁS being given a new role to set up interviews. Will that be part of a code of practice the Minister would ask FÁS to follow? I raise the point to ensure that people would not put their name on a FÁS list and then not be heard of again. FÁS staff are not to blame for that, it is the volume of people. They are busy dealing with the day to day demands of people looking for staff. However, I would like to know if within the voluntary code of practice people will be interviewed and short-listed as being eligible for a particular job or company.
The public inspection aspect in the amendment was not meant for the mass public. It would be there for the benefit of the employer so that when people have been interviewed they are found to be suitable for a job. I am not pressing the amendment. We will go down the road on the basis of a voluntary code of practice and I would hope that the views expressed by Members will be taken into consideration. We will have the opportunity of reviewing it in a short period of time to see how it is working. I am sure we will develop a situation so that when people go to FÁS they will not be left on a shelf. Somebody should contact them and interview them for the area of work they are interested in. After that they should be interviewed by an employer. The problem is that everyone is on the same list and there is no way an employer can interview everybody. This is where we have been failing. We should improve the situation so that people feel it is worthwhile taking this route. Every apprentice is not going to be taken on on the first day they are interviewed. That is a fact of life, but they are gaining experience of interviews and feel that they are that little bit more important as a result. It is better than just leaving their names on a list.
I appreciate the points the Senator has made. I did not get an opportunity of reading it into the record on Second Stage, but this is how we envisage the situation. The board of FÁS has accepted our proposal that a number of applicants should be sought for each apprenticeship vacancy, thus providing a range of possible candidates. There are lists from which a choice can be made. It is stipulated (1) that advertising should be public and on a scale which will attract an appropriate number of applicants; (2) that advertisements should confirm that the employer supports equal opportunity and should include a statement that canvassing will disqualify; and (3) that the FÁS employment service can provide employers with lists of applicants who have advised FÁS of their interest. Senator Farrelly's point that FÁS should have the lists is included in the code of practice.
I accept the point that was made about young people who put down their names and declare their interest in being, for example, a plumber and who never hear anything further about it from anybody in that sector. It is soul destroying. A teenager at 16, 17 and 18 years of age is bright and he or she thinks the world is ahead of him and her. It is. However, it is defeatist when that young person never hears again about that job. FÁS, it must be said, is swamped by the numbers. Although the number of vacancies is limited, people would feel better if they were allocated fairly. It would, at least, lessen the feelings of angst. We hope the voluntary code of practice will do this. I will encourage FÁS in this regard.
Lists are a good idea. They were mentioned by Senator Ormonde on Second Stage and Deputy de Valera mentioned them in the Dáil. It is a fair system. We have included it in our options for the voluntary code of practice for FÁS. Employers and FÁS should ensure that young people will be answered when they apply. It is soul destroying to receive no response. When a young person writes a letter seeking information on or consideration for apprenticeships, the letter is of great importance to that person and it deserves a response. The list system, which was central to Senator Farrelly's remarks, will be part of the voluntary code.
I move amendment No. 3:
In page 5, between lines 23 and 24, to insert the following new subsection:
"(2) Nothing in subsection (1) shall be construed so as to prevent a recruitment practice that is intended to achieve a better gender balance in the intake of apprentices to any designated industrial activity.".
This amendment refers to section 4, which states that "such recruitment is carried out in an equitable and fair manner". The thrust of this section is to require fairness and equity in recruiting apprentices. We all accept that it is a major issue. Apprenticeships must be open to everybody. I am concerned that in legislating for such fairness and openness, we may inadvertently make illegal something that is a sensible course of action.
At present there is a lack of gender balance in many occupations. Women are woefully under-represented in some occupations, although technically those occupations may be open to them. In general we should seek to achieve a gender balance in most occupations. To do so it may be sensible for FÁS to encourage applications from women for particular apprenticeship schemes and to allocate a number of places specifically for women to ensure that there is representation from both sexes. Such encouragement might be illegal under this Bill.
I am not making a case for positive discrimination. However, we should not inadvertently make it illegal. We can have the intent of fairness and equity, as outlined in this section, and ensure through this amendment that positive encouragement of women applicants is not outlawed.
I agree with Senator Quinn's comments. Although we should not necessarily have a quota of female apprenticeships, there should be positive thinking on the matter without calling it positive discrimination. I would go a step further. Although I may sound like a broken record, I must mention education again. The problem arises in that area to a certain extent. We must encourage the person to go for the apprenticeships. The parents must be educated that the apprenticeships are available. They should be given a positive philosophy about trades, educated that such apprenticeships may provide opportunities for girls, that girls will have no difficulty in serving those apprenticeships and that if girls apply to FÁS they will be received in the same way as boys.
We must face up to the way people think about this issue. It is one matter to instruct FÁS about it. However, we must take a broader strategy. We must involve the community because the attitude starts there. I can give an example of that. Last year I asked an employer to take on a student apprentice. As he knew me well he agreed to do so. The student was female; but I did not mention that but told him I would send the student to see him. When she arrived all hell broke loose because the employer maintained that he would not take on a female student. I had to talk the matter through with him before he accepted it. We must educate people that apprenticeships are available to every student. Saying male or female implies discrimination and division. We must say that all students of 16 years of age can seek apprenticeships. That is the positive approach. The Minister should approach it in that way also.
The Bill does not apply to health boards. However, it reminds me of the recruitment of students for nursing. In one health board area about 18 or 20 students were taken on in two training areas each year. If 18 students were recruited, 17 of them were females and one was male. It was the same in the following year. The gender balance also works against men. I am sure the Minister will address that matter.
With gusto. There are 20 women in the Dáil although there are over 160 seats. The day there are 84 women there we will cheer. Hence the name of the 84 group.
Do away with the club.
We are a group, not a club. We are not allowed to have sexist clubs. Did the Senator not know that the Minister responsible for the legislation is a member of his party? The Senator's point is fair and I cannot quibble with it. I am glad that one gentleman was accepted on each occasion. The world is mightily unbalanced in all spheres of activity.
Senator Ormonde impressed me when she said that speaking of "male or female" polarises the issue. It implies confrontation. In the course of visits to Senator Maloney's county and others I was brought to see factories involved in sheet metal fabrication or carpentry or other trades. The local FÁS representative would introduce the apprentices of whom one would be a girl while the remainder were boys. He would make a point of introducing the girl to me. Young women do not like that. Yesterday the same thing occurred and I said to the young woman concerned "I know you hate this as much as I do". "Yes", she said, "I do not like being pointed out as an oddity."
Most women want to be there as of right not because they are different. Many young women have told me on other occasions that while they get on well with their male peers, they are different. Women often have to muscle into conversations between their male colleagues. It is a wider issue and it is difficult to encompass it. It was said on Second Stage that this widening of the designated traineeships/apprenticeships will bring more than the butcher, the baker and the candlestick-maker into the situation. It will mean employing many more women.
I understand the thrust behind the amendment suggested by Senator Quinn which seeks to be preventative so that the equity we seek for all will not obstruct the gender balance equity. However, I would be hesitant to deal with the issue of gender balance in a section which is designed to ensure equity of recruitment for all. As I have already stated on a number of occasions, I am conscious of the need to deal with the general problem of equity in apprenticeship recruitment and I decided to introduce section 4 into the Bill to enable the Minister of the day to make regulations which would provide for general equity in the recruitment of apprentices and such regulations will be in the code of practice, etc.
I have also made it clear that I am conscious of the need to create more apprenticeship/traineeship opportunities for women. FÁS provides a bursary system. This is positive discrimination — I do not know whether this is legal or right — where each eligible employer who recruits a female apprentice will receive an extra total grant of £2,400. Employers do not seem to realise that this covers the whole period of their apprenticeship.
What is the other cost?
I do not have that information here but employers get an extra sum if they take on a female apprentice yet they still seem to be slow to do it. There are still cases where people like Senator Ormonde have to nudge the employer's elbow. In addition, there are pre-apprenticeship training courses available for women. I saw a good example in Shannon Aerospace. Women in hitherto male preserves of apprenticeships are brought together to work through issues, such as isolation, being different, peer pressure, etc. That is the preparatory ground for the rough terrain ahead for women in the physical trades. I am not saying they cannot do these jobs, but this is perceived by some to be the case.
I am confident the code of practice on recruitment will result in an increase in the number of females who will qualify under the apprenticeship system. Equity in the code of practice means equity of access. If this equity is followed through correctly, as I hope it will, then both women and men will make the grade on merit because the results will be based on list suitability, qualifications and interviews. This will bring in its wake the gender equity Senator Quinn wishes in his amendment.
Having due regard to the main objective of the code, which is to get the best qualified person for the job, we will also promote the recruitment of persons from groups which have traditionally been under-represented. Like Senator Quinn, I am trying to ride two horses, a difficult feat. Places will be apportioned correctly and fairly and there will be public scrutiny in the terms of which Senator Farrelly spoke. That is a good principle we have tried to incorporate in the code of practice and if it does not work, it will be done through compulsory measures. If we seek to have within that provision a tighter code of gender balance equity, will we upset the wider equity of which I speak? In encouraging FÁS in giving this bursary of £2,400 if a company takes on a woman over her period of apprenticeship, am I doing this? FÁS has gone as far as it could, both statutorily and legally, within the code. This opens up the wider issues of quotas and list systems.
The British Labour Party recently drew up a list system for the next general election where certain constituencies can only put women forward as candidates. I think that strategy is unwise. One will then start to think that women will only have a chance if such provisions are in place. If we want broad equity of access, it should be fair. Will those getting apprenticeships at great expense to the EU, the Government, our people and employers, get them on merit? We would say yes. However, if one distorts that broader equity into providing tighter legislation to ensure more females are employed — and there is a need for this — is one obtruding on the wider debate? I know Senator Quinn is trying to anticipate and prevent this issue from being lost within the wider debate. I was currently examining a traineeship model which will be similar to, but more flexible than, the apprenticeship training scheme which will be applied to a series of different areas that currently employ more women, such as Senator Quinn's own business, banking etc. Proper training and certification will be available which will encourage and assist progression — I hope a ladder of progression — through that system.
I want to convince the Minister of what I am trying to say in this amendment. It states: "Nothing...shall be construed so as to prevent a recruitment practice". The less legislation in many of these areas the better. If we are to encourage employers to take on apprentices, we should not force their hand by introducing so many tight, constrained and narrow paths. Taking that into account the amendment says "Nothing... shall be construed so as to prevent a recruitment policy that is intended to achieve a better gender balance..."
I recall a court case in America last year. A university in Los Angeles recognised they had almost no black students applying for medicine. They decided to allocate a small proportion of the student intake — 10 per cent — to black people. No one could disagree with that but a white man who was placed 91st was not allowed in because of this guarantee.
They had used up all of their places.
He took the university to court and won his case. He claimed the decision to allocate a certain number of places to black people meant he was being discriminated against on racial grounds. I will not go into the details of the case, but allocating 10 per cent of places to black people seemed fair and equitable at the time and the university and the population in the city thought likewise. However, they had not realised that by doing so they were being unfair to the person who was placed 91st.
Nothing we do in this legislation should prevent some effort being made by FÁS or an employer to get a fair gender balance. My amendment seeks to prevent such an imbalance. It could be accepted because it states that "nothing in subsection (1) shall be construed so as to prevent a recruitment practice that is intended to achieve a better gender balance in the intake of apprentices.". If the Minister thinks about this she will be able to accept it because it does not force the hand of people nor does it make it more difficult for an employer to take on future apprentices.
I am concerned about tightening the legislation. As an employer, I ask Senator Quinn what are employers doing about this? Perhaps we should go down the road of the CIF, the CII and the various institutions and organisations rather than introducing legislation, because the diktat will go against people.
We are not issuing diktats; we are saying nothing shall be construed to prevent something happening.
I accept the Senator's point, but I am afraid it may be perceived as a diktat in that we want to recruit a certain quota of female apprentices. I do not want that.
I am not saying that.
We should go through the employers, FÁS and the various organisations which promote the concept of apprenticeship. It is important to recruit young people of 16 years of age into apprenticeships and I would like to go down that road.
During the Second Stage debate I asked the Minister how she would ensure that a percentage of women would be recruited as apprentices. When we pass this legislation there is no guarantee that what happened in Senator Ormonde's case with the employer will not happen again. The Minister told us today that an extra £2,400 has been made available for the employer who recruits a female apprentice. How many employers know about this? I did not know about it until today. Employers must be made aware of this incentive.
I agree with the amendment, but it seems it will not be accepted by the Minister. There is no guarantee that extra females will be taken on as apprentices unless we do something about it and this is part of the legislation. I will evaluate the overall scheme and what should be done in this area when I discuss my own amendment.
We have failed to make people aware of what is available and part of the blame rests with the bodies concerned. The Minister made an interesting point about a visit to an area where one person was singled out because she was a lady. That is sad because nothing would have been said if four or five ladies had been employed. We have failed to sell the message that both genders are capable of doing the job and employers have not accepted that fact. People must be educated in this area. We must ensure that the debate in both Houses conveys that message to employers.
We launched the new apprenticeship scheme on 30 April 1993 and shortly afterwards I launched the FÁS bursary scheme, which was mentioned in the newspapers. The chairman of FÁS, Mr. Chris Kirwan, and I toured some of the centres and IBEC was told about the scheme. I take the Senator's point that I, the agencies and the employers have not talked enough about it. How many employers know that IBEC is representative of employers throughout the country? How many of them know they can get £2,400 for taking on a female apprentice? I thought money would talk if equal opportunity and——
It always did and it will not change now.
—— equity did not. Part of the suggested draft code of practice mirrors Senator Quinn's amendment. It states that nothing in the code shall be construed as to work against the positive approach towards gender balance.
The words in the suggested draft code of practice are better than the words in my amendment. It states that:
Nothing in this code of practice shall be construed as preventing employers taking appropriate steps to achieve equality of opportunity in recruitment by positively promoting the recruitment of persons from groups which have traditionally been underrepresented in apprenticeship.
The words are better than mine because they cover a wider area. However, would it not be possible to include them in the legislation rather than in the code of practice? I am worried this legislation may give a person the opportunity to object to someone who tries to get a fair and accurate balance, perhaps not a gender balance. It seems possible to include it in the legislation and I accept the words in the suggested draft code of practice.
The Senator is on the right track because his amendment is almost included in the code of practice. The officials of the Department discussed each amendment with the parliamentary draftsman. We were advised by the parliamentary draftsman that we could not legally include Senator Quinn's requirements in legislation. In the draft voluntary code to FÁS, which has been discussed and is now being agreed, the last paragraph states:
Nothing in this code of practice [which was the overall code of equity] shall be construed as preventing employers taking appropriate steps to achieve equality of opportunity in recruitment by positively promoting the recruitment of persons from groups which have traditionally been under-represented in apprenticeship.
That mirrors what Senator Quinn has put forward. All that we have included in the draft voluntary code will take the compulsory route if the voluntary code does not work. However, that must be agreed with the parliamentary draftsman. All our wishes have been included in the voluntary code and this is part of the monitoring process which we will be doing.
The Minister has put my mind at rest in this regard and I am happy to withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 6, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following new subsection:
"(3) (a) A procedure of evaluation of the operation of the apprenticeship programme shall be established and carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute, which shall, inter alia, report on——
(i) the equity of entry to apprenticeships,
(ii) the balance between numbers of new apprentices taken on and employment opportunities for which there are not already trained workers,
(iii) the responsiveness of the programme to changing training needs, such as the need for multiskilling,
(iv) the effectiveness and the methods of certification of standards achieved,
(v) the success of training when measured against the best international standards.
(b) Each year the ESRI shall report progress made against the annual performance targets set by An Foras.".
In relation to all these schemes and legislation in which the Oireachtas is involved an evaluation is long overdue. This week we have had the report of the Committee of Public Accounts on a particular development in Clare and it proves forcefully that we should have an evaluation of this scheme and the operation of apprenticeships. It is easy when a scheme is launched to announce that there will be 4,000, 5,000 or 10,000 places available for apprentices. Ministers do it and, I am sure, will continue to do so. They may all be taken on but nobody ever knows the number of apprentices who finish; maybe the relevant officials of FÁS would know.
I mentioned earlier the number of young people who have two or three years done and have no opportunity to finish their course. That stems from our not having had an evaluation of the workings of apprenticeship schemes. Now is the time that we should evaluate, within reason, after one year how the different schemes are working and how the proposals in this legislation will work. We all hope that the changes made will improve the overall position for the apprentices and for the applicants for apprenticeships, will give them more of a say and ensure that when they apply they will feel that they will be looked after by the officials as best they can. We should also have an evaluation of the balance between the number of apprentices taken on and employment opportunities for which there are not already trained workers. We should evaluate all aspects of the scheme.
Returning to the point I made earlier about the councils getting involved, there is no point in their getting involved in the scheme if we do not evaluate at the end of a year or two years how successful it is, whether it can be improved and how successful it will be. There will be major successes in areas once the scope is expanded and an opportunity is given for an increased number of apprentices.
A greater number of school leavers were trained from my generation compared with the small number who are being trained at present from the same schools, from classes which are, perhaps, in most cases larger. A smaller number is being trained and we do not really know how successful the classes of 1993 or 1994 have been. In order to do our job properly we must have an evaluation of the position on a yearly basis and make the report available for debate. I believe the Minister gave a commitment in the other House that she would make the information available.
That is welcome. We can improve on some of the areas which have not been so successful by asking why they have not been so successful and by asking what we can do to bring all of the areas up to the standard of those which have been successful. It would give us a say and a commitment to ensuring that we do not pass this legislation and hear no more about it for five or seven years or more. However, as the Minister said in the Dáil, she did not expect to be around in 20 years, at least perhaps not in the same position.
I will be lucky to be around.
We may all be lucky to be around even until tomorrow. We have a chance to state that we have a commitment to ensure that this scheme is a success. The FÁS officials who will be in charge of this scheme will have a greater urgency about it if they have targets to ensure the success of the scheme if it is to be discussed at the end of the year to see how we can make improvements. I have no doubt that some areas of the country will outshine others. Let us bring the benefit of the areas which will be successful to the other areas around the country. I hope the Minister will consider some of my points and my amendment. It will improve the legislation and give us the opportunity to review the matter in whatever timescale the Minister might consider feasible — I would not insist on a year.
I listened attentively to Senator Farrelly's contribution and I go along with the broad concept that we must have a follow up on our schemes, in the context of equity of recruitment and whether the number of apprentices will match the number of jobs available afterwards. I agree also that we have to take into account the technological changes which are taking place, the standards required and the certification which is being put in place.
I am allergic to bringing in another new body to assess this. FÁS should give the feedback on all of this. It is working on the scheme in terms of the recruitment, the number of apprenticeships and the number of apprentices who qualify. FÁS is in a position to say at the end of the four year apprenticeship how many will get jobs and how many will be waiting for jobs. It is also in a position to know whether today's technological needs relate to the apprenticeship scheme and whether we match up to international standards.
Bringing in another body to do this assessment is an indication that we are becoming "committee-ited". We should keep it tight, keep it within the bodies working on it, and if we cannot do so I would fault FÁS, the educational system and the employers. They are dealing with apprenticeship. We also have the National Educational Certification and Training Board and the various new bodies which are there to assess certification. They can be included. However, I disagree that we should bring in the ESRI to monitor the overall assessment of the scheme.
I would not like to think that at the end of the day, when we are all exhausted from our contributions, that we would walk away and that this would be put on the shelf. If that is the case in 12 months' time I will eat my words. I do not want that to be the case. We should give the responsibility to FÁS which should be able to carry out the relevant assessment.
I have two points in support of Senator Farrelly's amendment. The first point echoes that made by the Minister earlier: who is to guard the guards? We need someone to evaluate and that person or body must be outside FÁS. The second point is that what gets measured gets done. That is true in all aspects of life, all structures and all businesses. If it is possible to find some way to evaluate the quality of the work done by FÁS, it should not be FÁS who does so. I do not have the answer but I support the concept behind the Senator's amendment. The Minister might respond to the concerns expressed in it.
There is great sense and merit in the amendment. I will go through the five points in it and in so doing I will outline what has been done and what needs to be done. First is the equity of entry to apprenticeship. We have had much debate on that point in relation to the voluntary code of practice. In the end there was agreement in the House to adopt the voluntary code, evaluate how it fares and impose a compulsory code if it does not work.
I will withdraw that part of the amendment on that basis.
I thank the Senator. The second point refers to the balance between numbers of new apprentices taken on and employment opportunities for which there are not already trained workers. The Senator is raising the matter of forecasting available opportunities and whether the work force will be able to take such opportunities. This is a good point.
The national plan is an example of bad forecasting.
If one followed that path one might limit access to BA degrees or prevent people becoming doctors or vets. To a certain extent we limit access to colleges because if we did not there might be more people in a course than could fit in an auditorium. For the most part, however, the number of BA graduates is limited only by the number that can fit into the universities or for tutorial purposes.
We do not seek to match people to available courses because we must bear in mind the wider world and that we are Europeans. I would prefer to see young people having a dowry, meaning a skill. If that person has unfortunately to go away to get a job one would hope he or she would come back having had the training enhanced. We should try to have as many people as possible with skills. If we are broadening other areas of traineeship or apprenticeship we should not limit people to what may be available.
From time to time I find the economic forecasts to be academic twaddle. What they say will happen often does not happen. I was in the Department of Education for five years and at different times I was told the numbers would be down, or would be up, or that there would be increases in a given place. In the end my commonsense taught me a good deal. Forecasts of what might be available in job opportunities may not be precise.
I see we have another chairman.
I am sorry if I gave you a fright, Minister.
Not at all. It is a pleasant surprise.
Events can happen behind one's back and one may not be aware of them.
Yes, I have had experience of daggers in my back but I hope that time has passed.
The third point in the amendment relates to the responsiveness of programmes to changing training needs, such as the need for multi-skilling. That was embraced in Deputy Quill's amendment in the other House. She used the word "multi-skilling". We altered her amendment slightly to take cognisance of the draftsman's requirements but its thrust was contained in my first amendment in the Dáil, which referred to the multi-skilling ethos or principle.
The fourth matter is the effectiveness of the methods of certification of standards achieved. The Programme for a Partnership Government contains the ideal of the National Educational Certification and Training Board. Many vested interests are involved here, but we will endorse this principle. This board will certify not only the standards of apprentices but standards for all training in industry, CERT, Teagasc, VPT and elsewhere. We are proceeding with that plan and within the next few months we hope to have that board in place to certify education and training courses. That body will endorse standards of certification but, as the Senator says, it does not exist yet.
The last item relates to the success of the training when measured against the best international standards. FÁS has signed agreements with France, the UK and Germany, although the latter has not been concluded. These are mutual recognition agreements of the comparability of the apprenticeship and training courses. We are already succeeding in measuring ourselves against international standards. Through these agreements the idea of standards based rather than passive time served apprenticeships was developed.
Under Senator Farrelly's amendment the ESRI would report progress made against the annual performance targets set by FÁS. I agree with the idea, but the advice given to me is that FÁS has set up a board to deal with apprenticeships. This is somewhat like examining one's navel; it may be comforting but if one is only doing so oneself it is not of much use.
The Department of Enterprise and Employment has set up an evaluation unit which has now been recognised by Europe. Some may say this is more bureaucracy, but the EU has adopted this unit as a model for other countries in distributing EU moneys. I am interested in this matter because the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, Deputy Mitchell, has been giving close scrutiny to a certain project along with his colleagues.
The unit has highly trained staff and they have given us many presentations relating to their work. The EU has said it approves of the work of the unit and it will adopt the results of the unit as standard practice. Europe will encourage other countries to follow our example. This is not personal praise but a commendation from outside. We are happy with the work being undertaken by the evaluation unit. I mentioned this matter earlier when speaking of urgency and pro-active implementation on Senator Quinn's amendment.
In the Dáil debate on a similar amendment I said I would consider making future evaluation reports available to both Houses. I see no reason for them to be locked away in an evaluation unit within the Department of Enterprise and Employment or in Brussels, where they make delightful reading for bureaucrats. These Houses are where accountability lies because we are the final evaluators and are elected to be so.
In some respects we have complied with the points in this amendment. Some points remain to be decided. For instance, we do not know if the voluntary code will work, whether other countries will become involved in international standardisation, or how quickly we will set up the certification board. We have some work to do on those matters. I am prepared to make the unit's evaluation reports public through discussion in the House. I ask the Senator to accept this.
I intend to withdraw parts (i), (ii) and (iii) of the amendment. I take the Minister's word that more progress is needed regarding paragraph (iv). Everything cannot be done overnight. When the Minister of State is again in the House discussing other aspects of this matter, perhaps she could inform us when the decision is made regarding paragraph (iv). I also intend to withdraw part (v).
On a procedural point, I am not sure you can withdraw parts of the amendment. You would be amending the amendment as you go along and the amendment is before the House.
The Minister of State dealt with evaluation by saying that Europe is pleased with the evaluation unit that has been set up in the Department. Is it a departmental evaluation unit, based in the same Department that makes the decision in connection with the legislation vis-á-vis FÁS, apprenticeships, etc?
The Department of Enterprise and Employment is FÁS's parent body. Europe is providing money for apprenticeship and training and it seeks an evaluation. We agree with that and we would do it ourselves. Part of the European money we receive goes towards the evaluation unit, which is part of the system of training and apprenticeship, and it is responsible to us and to Europe. He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Is anybody from outside the Department involved in the evaluation unit? Senator Ormonde asked why another body should be set up, but we are not setting up another body.
Using a body.
We are using a body that already exists. It is not fair to ask a body — 20 years experience tells me this — to examine itself and to give a fair evaluation of its work. In the past, reports were slanted to suit the people concerned, to save face etc. Is there a possibility of having the evaluation of the work of FÁS on a yearly or two yearly basis so that we would have an opportunity to examine it? Is there anybody from outside the Department of Enterprise and Employment on the evaluation committee? Have two or three people, who would be partly independent, been appointed to take part in the evaluation process?
I am happy to be straightforward on this point. I have met the evaluation unit and, in the main, it is made up of people from outside. However, this does not mean I do not have the highest regard for civil servants.
I did not say outsiders; I said outside the Department.
In all my previous jobs I have held that regard. Two or three students of the recent MBA class in Trinity College Dublin have been taken into the evaluation unit on a yearly contract basis. They are paid by Brussels and EU money has set up the evaluation unit. Ten out of 12 of the people involved in the unit are not established civil servants. However, that is not to say I would not be happy were it the other way. In the main, it is peopled by outsiders.
We are making some progress. The way this is being done is acceptable. I have nothing against any civil servant who may be working on this. However, if one is working closely on something and nursing it along the line——
One feels a sense of protectiveness.
Exactly. I am delighted to hear from the Minister of State that people from other areas have been seconded in real terms. How often will we receive a response on the evaluation? Will it be yearly, every 18 months or every two years? It will probably take a minimum of 18 months to get an idea of how things are proceeding. There are always teething problems for the first six to eight months. Will the Minister of State give a commitment that we will have a response?
That is a fair question. Given that the voluntary code will take two years, there will be a response within 18 months to two years. We cannot wait until the two years are up and then make a swoop on the voluntary code. I give a commitment to the thrust of Senator Farrelly's amendment, which was evaluation, monitoring and the production of results, warts and all. I wish this debate had taken place some years ago and that I had had the opportunity to be at the centre of developments. This has been such a productive debate. Where else have amendments been accepted and, where they could not be accepted, their thrust has been accepted? Where else could we say that a Bill, which started as a minute matter dealing with a levy, a gleam in some Revenue inspector's eye, has provoked such debate and unity in a discursive and cautionary sense and through advice to me in general. I accept that there has to be a public airing of the evaluation process. I give a commitment to that in a year to two years, le cúnamh Dé.
We will not ask the Minister of State to go from the gleam in the eye to the gestation period of the Bill. We will not inquire into that.
I thank the Chair for the generosity of time allowed to debate this Bill. It has been a fruitful experience. The Bill started with a much slimmer Title; it was a much slimmer Bill. It is proof of democracy that this Bill has assumed such importance. I have learned much from the process. I have long held the view that the Seanad is a House of good debate, and so it has proved in this instance.
I was somewhat annoyed when I was informed that this legislation was to be taken in the House today. It was not indicated on the programme of legislation I received on 18 March 1994, and I had organised a number of other activities in the Oireachtas.
However, I thank the Minister and am pleased I had the opportunity to play a part in the passing of this legislation. Most of the Members of this House are elected representatives but, as the Minister has advised, until there is involvement in the nitty gritty of the way things work, it is impossible to appreciate what is involved in real terms on issues such as those addressed in this Bill.
Progress has been made in passing this legislation and I look forward to witnessing the progress arising from our deliberations on this Bill in this House and in the Lower House.
The Bill started out as a minute item but it has made a major contribution to the development of the way we train our young people for the future.
I am pleased the House had the opportunity to hear the Minister's contribution to this debate. She has provided the House with an interesting debate. It was good to feel we could differ and come together, and that the Minister was able to facilitate us in our deliberations.
The debate provided me with an opportunity to become involved with this issue and the Minister's awareness of the whole area of apprenticeships gives me the confidence to believe she knows where she is going and that she has grasped the thrust of the Bill. I am confident also that the Minister will return to the House with feedback on the various points raised in this debate.
I am pleased the House has completed so much work on this measure today.
I congratulate the Minister for not only ensuring the passage of this Bill through the House but for the manner in which she listened so attentively to the points made.
The concept of a voluntary code of practice, and even more so the threat that if it does not work the Minister will introduce a measure which is not voluntary, is a better way of getting things done on occasion. Perhaps this is a message that can be taken by other Ministers when introducing other legislation.
I commend the Minister. As usual, she was informative and had a feel for the Bill she introduced. The passing of the Bill is something from which we have all gained. I welcome the legislation and congratulate the Minister.
I join with the House in thanking the Minister.