As the Deputy is aware, in order to be registered as an apprentice by SOLAS, a person must be employed by an approved employer in one of the 27 craft trades. Recruitment to apprenticeship is therefore driven by employers rather than by SOLAS or by education and training providers.
The 2014 Review of Apprenticeship in Ireland acknowledged that the number of women employed in craft apprenticeships is low as they operate in sectors that have traditionally low levels of female employment. SOLAS offers a bursary to employers to encourage women to take up apprenticeships in these areas. Despite this the number of female apprentices remains low.
Currently the Apprenticeship Council is overseeing the expansion of the apprenticeship system into a range of new areas, following a call for proposals from employers and education and training providers. 25 proposals have been prioritised by the Council for development. In recent months, we have seen the first of these new apprenticeships with the Insurance Practitioner Apprenticeship launching in September and the Industrial Electrical Engineer Apprenticeship recently commencing. Further new apprenticeships will get underway later this year and early next year. Many of these new programmes are in sectors where there is a different gender balance in the workplace and I am confident that this will lead to a strong increase in female participation when these new apprenticeships are launched in the coming months.
Accompanying the renewal and expansion of apprenticeship in Ireland will be a new branding and marketing campaign. SOLAS will examine how this campaign can assist with promoting apprenticeship to women and to their potential employers.