Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation Niall Collins says the apprenticeship system is in urgent need of an overhaul to encourage more women to take up apprenticeships.

The latest data released to Fianna Fáil reveals that over 99% of all state funded apprenticeships in 2016 were taken up by men.  Only 33 out of 10,315 apprentices were female.

“Apprenticeships are essential to economic growth, but there is a very serious problem with the current system as it is failing to encourage young women to consider apprenticeships as a career option.  The fact that only 33 women took up apprenticeships in 2016 says it all.  At a time when the economic is beginning to grow again, more effort needs to be made to ensure that women begin to consider apprenticeships as a possible first step in a viable career path”, explained Deputy Collins.

“Ireland is well behind the UK when it comes to female apprenticeship participation – in 2014/15 more than half of all apprenticeships in England were taken up by women.  We need to strive for that here, but it will need urgent action to tackle the challenges which currently exist in Ireland.

“The Government needs to accelerate the roll out and approval of a greater number of apprenticeship categories as an urgent priority, working together with industry experts and education providers.  The Review of Apprenticeship Training in Ireland December recommended a “widening the scope of apprenticeships into new areas such as business administration, ICT, social care, hospitality, financial services etc.” to improve gender balance.  This corresponds with Fianna Fáil calls to offer a wider range of skills and crafts.  We also believe that apprentices should work on developing a broader range of skills during the off-the-job element of their course, covering skills in numeracy, technology and language, which are highly valued by employers.

“While there are ambitious targets in the Programme for Government, there is still some distance to get to close to 30,000 apprenticeships that prevailed in the pre-crisis period.  The Apprenticeship Council received proposals to expand the number of apprenticeship categories to 86, however only 25 new categories have been approved by Fine Gael in Government.

“It is vital that the State invests in and incentivises apprenticeships, by creating a structured training and qualification pathway to a sustainable career and providing an alternative to traditional university routes”.