I am aware that the Deputy has an interest in apprenticeships as he has asked a number of questions on it. Currently, there are 367 female apprentices registered, more than double the 2017 figure of 151 and a substantial increase on the 2016 figure of 60. I accept that is not enough but I have made a big effort since I came to this position to at least double the number of apprentices that we have today. The number of women employed in craft apprenticeships is low, reflecting the traditional low levels of overall female employment in the craft sectors. To address that, SOLAS offers a bursary to employers in those trades to encourage them to employ female apprentices.
In recent years, there has been a welcome increase in the number of women participating in apprenticeships overall, mainly because of the expansion of apprenticeship into new areas. Many of the new programmes are in occupations that have greater gender balance in the workplace, such as financial services and auctioneering. While the increase in the number of female apprentices is welcome, it is also important to address issues influencing the low level of recruitment of women in the craft sectors. SOLAS has completed a review on the pathways to participation in apprenticeship for underrepresented groups, including women. Areas highlighted for action include setting targets for female participation and considering extending the bursary to other apprenticeships. The bursary offers approximately €2,660 to an eligible employer to encourage him or her to employ female apprentices. We are considering extending the bursary.
Women feature prominently in all aspects of the Generation Apprenticeship campaign, which was launched in 2017 by SOLAS on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, radio and television to encourage women to take up apprenticeship. However, it would be untruthful to state that everything is fine with female apprentices. Much more needs to be done.