I propose to take Questions Nos. 226 to 231, inclusive, together.
In accordance with the Programme for Government, a new Action Plan for Apprenticeship is in development to cover the period 2021-2025 with a target of 10,000 apprenticeship registrations per annum by 2025. The plan will also set out how the apprentice population will more closely reflect the general population and offer targeted supports for under-represented groups, including women and those with disabilities. It is expected that the Action Plan will be finalised in the coming weeks.
The Deputy will be aware that this Government have committed to taking a lead on boosting the availability and uptake of apprenticeships by increasing opportunity in the public sector. It is important to note that apprenticeship is an employer-led offering based on a contract of employment between the apprentice and their respective employer and action from public sector employers will be required to expand apprenticeship provision across the sector. As of December 2020, there were 313 apprentices employed across 48 departments, agencies and state bodies.
Actions within the plan to increase participation by under-represented groups will be based on stakeholder feedback (a summary of which may be accessed on www.gov.ie/dfheris) and also the current position of the 2018 Pathways to Participation in Apprenticeship Review. Actions within this review, in addition to the growth in breadth of apprenticeship programmes have resulted in increased participation in apprenticeship by women - with the population of women apprentices reaching 1,000 for the first time in December 2020.
Current initiatives underway include:
- A specific focus on female participation as part of the Generation Apprenticeship national promotional campaign. From Monday 25th January, SOLAS are running a media campaign over 3 weeks promoting the apprenticeship route and celebrating diversity and the 1000th female apprentice
- SOLAS offers a bursary of €2,666 to eligible employers, to encourage them to employ female apprentices in one of the craft apprenticeships.
- A Software Developer Associate Apprenticeship programme for women only commenced in November 2019. It is a 2 year course and is offered at level 6 on the National Framework of Qualifications. The off the job training is being delivered by Liberties College who are under the remit of the City of Dublin Education and Training Board.
- A total of 300 learners availed of dedicated pre-apprenticeship training in 2019, growing to 580 places in 2020.
- Technological University Dublin has developed an Access to Apprenticeship programme. This innovative pilot programme supports the transition of young people (16-24 years old) from areas of socio-economic disadvantage into craft apprenticeships. To date over 118 young men and women have progressed into apprenticeships through this program.
- SOLAS, in partnership with the HEA and with the support of the Apprenticeship Council, continued developing access pathways with all providers, including TU Dublin, during 2020 and into the 2020-2021 academic year.
- Almost 1,000 employers have registered with www.apprenticejobs.ie, which is designed to increase visibility of opportunities for all potential apprentices.
- Broader approaches to widening access to apprenticeships also include developing links between Youthreach and Community Training Centre (CTC) provision.
- The roll out of the 2020 Generation Apprenticeship competition at second level reached 156 second level schools, Youthreach Centres and Community Training Centres.
- A new user-friendly and interactive website to provide information on, and increase awareness of, apprenticeship was launched in October 2020 (www.apprenticeship.ie).