I thank the members. I will respond to Deputy Catherine Martin ar dtús. On female participation, the Deputy pointed to the positive aspects and asked why this is happening. We have to be in the realistic space as well; we have a lot more to do there. A number of reports have highlighted that the number of women employed in craft apprenticeships is still low, which is reflective of the traditionally low levels of female employment in the craft sector. I have had preliminary discussions with a number of officials in SOLAS on this issue.
Sometimes in life, the things that are staring us straight in the face are the things we may take for granted. In my own county, SOLAS is looking at the traditional craft sector to see what it can do in respect of apprenticeships. SOLAS offers a bursary to craft employers to encourage them to employ female apprentices but the uptake by women is still very low. To provide a few more figures, at the end of 2018 there were 341 female apprentices registered, more than double the 2017 figure of 151. That is the positive aspect to which the Deputy alluded. While this is welcome, it is also important to address issues influencing the low level of recruitment of women in the craft sector. SOLAS has completed a review of the pathways to participation in apprenticeship for under-represented groups, including women. Areas highlighted for action include setting targets for female participation, considering extending the craft employer bursary to other apprenticeships with less than 20% female participation, and a specific focus on female participation as part of the Generation Apprenticeship national promotional campaign. Women now feature prominently in all aspects of the national promotional campaign, where there is a specific focus on encouraging women and girls to consider apprenticeships as a means of launching or developing their careers.
We will be doing the career guidance review in the coming weeks and a number of suggestions have been made through this committee on career guidance. We have a body of work on how we can support career guidance teachers more in terms of the information they have. The information available at junior certificate and leaving certificate level is critical, including information about different industries, apprenticeships, a higher diploma or higher education. We have to be aware than an information vacuum can exist. This is not the fault of the career guidance teachers. There could be one career guidance teacher for a whole school and he or she is not going to be able to develop individual career paths for every student. We must address how to make that information more accessible to the student cohort.
I am aware that they do something very collaborative in Limerick. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan might be able to shed more light on that. I only found out about it from my trip to Limerick. They bring together the third level institutions, the ETB, SOLAS, all the different stakeholders and the young people in a single environment once a year. That type of information sharing is so important. Returning to Deputy Catherine Martin's question, the future skills forum is also contributing to this dissemination of information. It is done on a regional basis, which is critical. When I was in Drumshanbo yesterday, I came across two more potential apprenticeships there, one in the area of beauty and healthcare and the other in organic farming. They are really tapping into the possibilities around tourism as well, which Deputy Jan O'Sullivan mentioned.
On the National Training Fund and the human capital issue, from January 2020 a new ring-fenced funding line, the human capital initiative, will be established within the National Training Fund to invest €60 million per annum from the accumulated surplus over a five-year period. This ring-fenced allocation will total €300 million over the period from 2020 to 2024. It will form a key part of the strategic response to Brexit and other challenges. Deputy McLoughlin mentioned funding for apprenticeships. I acknowledge the role played by all the different service providers in this area. The 2019 budget allocation for apprenticeship training is €142 million, which represents an increase of over 16% on the 2018 allocation of €122 million. The 2019 allocation is apportioned between SOLAS, which is allocated €105 million, and the HEA, which is allocated €37 million. It will support an apprenticeship population forecast to be in excess of 18,000 by the end of 2019, and new registrations forecast to be in excess of 7,000 in the same year.
The findings of a recent study that appeared in The Irish Times showed that multinational companies held in equal esteem graduates from higher level institutions and universities and from apprenticeships. We have to ensure we continue to send the message to young people that the race for points to go to university will not be a perfect fit for all students. The great work being done in promoting apprenticeships is central to the conversation.
Deputy Jan O'Sullivan raised an issue about funding from the European Social Fund. I remember that the applications for funding from some Youthreach programmes had not been submitted in time. I have raised this matter with my officials and efforts will be made to try to ensure we will not have to wait for a Supplementary Estimate to be presented.
The Acting Chairman raised an issue about the provision being made for the payment of pensions. A great deal of work goes into coming up with figures for how many teachers will retire, but the reason we had to present a Supplementary Estimate for €144 million was insufficient money had been put aside in the initial Estimate. I am confident that the Department will be in position this year because of the new increased baseline figure of €1.35 billion. My three predecessors in the Department since 2011 evaluated correctly the figures for the numbers who would retire, but the resources were not available in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. That is the reason the Department had to prepare a Supplementary Estimate.