Fianna Fáil Jobs and Enterprise Spokesperson, Niall Collins TD has expressed shock at figures which show the emergence of a glaring, systemic gender gap in the country’s apprenticeship system.

“There’s no two ways about it: the system as currently constituted clearly disadvantages women,” said Collins.

Deputy Collins commented, “The latest parliamentary question reply I received shows that over 99% of all state funded apprentices are male.”

“This is deeply worrying considering that the youth employment rate (15-24) for both males and females in latest CSO figures is virtually the same. It is clear that the extraordinary gender imbalance for apprenticeships needs urgent government action.”

“Ireland is falling behind when it comes to engaging women via apprenticeships. Take England for example.  Since 2010/11, more women than men have started apprenticeships; with 53% of starters in 2014/2015 were women.”

“In December 2013, the Review of Apprenticeship Training in Ireland said an “improved gender balance would best be achieved by widening the scope of apprenticeships into new areas such as business administration, ICT, social care, hospitality, financial services etc.”

“Fine Gael’s performance in this area has been inexcusable. The Apprenticeship Council received proposals to expand the number of apprenticeship categories to 86, yet only 25 have been approved to date.”

“Government needs to show leadership in accelerating the roll out and approval of a greater number of apprenticeship categories as an urgent priority, working in unison with education providers and industry,” added Collins.

“Fianna Fáil has consistently called for apprenticeships to be offered in a wider range of skills/crafts, informed and shaped by regular and frequent industry reviews. Apprentices should be able to learn a broader range of skills during the off-the-job element of their course. This should cover skills in numeracy, technology and language which are actively sought out by potential employers.”

“Women are being utterly failed by the current apprenticeship programme.  This needs to be acknowledged and fixed without any further delay,” concluded Collins.