I welcome the Committee’s report in relation to the apprenticeship area and I will be considering the recommendations. Many of the recommendations made are already being addressed through the ongoing apprenticeship reform programme, which has seen apprenticeship registrations grow by 80% between 2015 and 2018.
SOLAS has completed a review on pathways to participation in apprenticeship. The purpose of the review is to ensure that our national apprenticeship system is more reflective of the range and diversity of our population, more inclusive of diverse backgrounds and abilities and that apprenticeship opportunities are more readily accessible to all.
Areas highlighted for action include setting disability and socio economic targets, incorporating the national census questions on disability and ethnicity into apprentice registration as a means of gathering more robust data on participation and examining options to expand the bursary which is currently available to employers who employ women in craft apprenticeships.
Increasing practical supports for apprentices from underrepresented groups, creating new pathways via pre-apprenticeship courses around the country and promoting diverse pathways to participation in apprenticeship in the Generation Apprenticeship campaign are also identified as areas for action. A new apprenticeship jobs portal is also currently being piloted to increase the visibility of apprenticeship opportunities.
The Committee's recommendations relating to financial supports for employers relate to the budgetary process and the broader context of competing demands and the overall availability of resources.