Government criticised over failure to tackle apprentice gender gaps

The Government has been criticised for its failure to address the gender gap in apprenticeships after it emerged fewer than 1% of apprentices are women.

Figures released by Solas, the further education and training authority, reveal among the 9,587 people in apprenticeships to date in 2016, just 52 are female.

Women account for seven of the 2,093 existing apprentices in the construction sector, 17 of the 3,699 in the electrical sector, none of the 1,528 in the engineering sector, five of the 2,192 in the motoring sector, and two of the 21 in the printing sector.

Women are, however, much better represented in the financial services sector, albeit that their total of 21, all in the insurance practice arena, is still exceeded by their 33 male counterparts.

The figures were released at the request of Education Minister Richard Bruton to Fianna Fáil Jobs spokesman Niall Collins who said: “There is no two ways about it. The system, as it is currently constituted, clearly disadvantages women.”

Mr Collins pointed out, as far back as December 2013, a review of apprenticeship training here believed 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, and others.

He added the Apprenticeship Council had received proposals to expand the number of apprenticeship categories to 86, yet only 25 had been approved to date.

When the council was announced in 2014, the department said at the time one of its first tasks would be “to issue a call, for proposals from employers and education and training providers, to develop new apprenticeships in areas outside of the current apprenticeship trades”, as well as to advise on the implementation of new apprenticeships following that process.

Mr Collins said the figures released by Solas showed a “glaring, systemic gender gap” and were worrying given the employment rate for 15 to 24 year-olds for both men and women in the latest CSO figures were virtually the same.

“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,” said Mr Collins.

“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; 53% of starters in 2014/2015 were women.”

While the number of categories has shown little improvement, the number of apprenticeships available has actually increased significantly in only the last three years.

In 2013, there were just 5,711 apprentices compared to 9,587 this year.

One of the biggest increases has been in the electrical sector where the number of apprentices has jumped from 2030 to 3,699 over the three-year period.


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