I propose to take Questions Nos. 557, 558, 572 and 573 together.
There were over 6,000 employers with 19,630 registered apprentices at the end of 2020, of these 313 (1.6%) were registered with 35 public sector employers. These apprentices were registered across 24 different apprenticeship programmes in areas as diverse as cybersecurity, accounting technician, recruitment, heavy vehicle mechanics and stonecutting and stonemasonry. This number grew to 769 apprentices i.e. almost 4% of the apprentice population when commercial semi-state organisations are included.
A breakdown of the number of apprentices that have been employed across the public sector for each year since 2011 is attached. The Government has committed to increasing the number of apprentices employed in the public sector and this will be addressed in the forthcoming Action Plan on Apprenticeship.
The information sought in relation to those apprentices who have been temporarily laid off throughout the pandemic is not collected in the format requested by the Deputy. However, there are currently 49 apprentices recorded as being redundant due to COVID-19 with another 111 recorded as being on temporary lay-off. It is important to note that not all employers inform SOLAS when they temporarily lay-off an apprentice.
As of February 2021 there are 6,928 apprentices from 5 craft programmes on waiting lists for off-the-job training. Over 1,800 of these have been waiting for more than one year. SOLAS and the HEA are working with the education and training providers to identify a route to a phased return to onsite activity in order to allow for some craft apprentices, including those who were close to assessment, to be prioritised for return to onsite activity and completion of practical course elements. This work will also include medium term solutions to addressing the existing backlogs for off-the-job training.
The Government has committed to the delivery of a new Action Plan for Apprenticeship within the coming weeks. The Action Plan will set out measures to widen employer engagement with apprenticeship in both the public and private sectors with the target of reaching 10,000 new apprentice registrations per annum by 2025.