Dr Mary-Liz Trant
Director, National Apprenticeship Office
As more apprenticeship programmes have become available, awareness has grown among women of all ages and backgrounds of the fantastic career opportunities an apprenticeship can provide.
“I want to push the limits of what I can do and what I can become. As my son grows, I want him to know that I finished my apprenticeship and went on to become everything I could be.” These are the words of sheet metalwork apprentice Joanne McGuigan, from Monaghan, as she reflected on being an apprentice and a mother to her young son.
Joanne is one of 1,500 women apprentices currently training in Ireland and contributing to a transformation of the apprenticeship system.
Diverse range of opportunities
Up until 2016 there were less than 100 women choosing the apprenticeship route. There are now 65 programmes on offer, spanning engineering, biopharma, finance, construction, hospitality, tech and many more areas, covering the full range of qualifications from certificate to PhD level.
Last year there were a record 8,607 overall registrations. This represents an increase of almost 40% on figures for the same period in 2019, the last year of “normal” operations.
With 1,500 women in a population of 24,000 apprentices nationally there is still a distance to go in growing the ranks of women apprentices.
Being a role model to others
There’s a reason it’s becoming an increasingly attractive option: apprentices earn while they learn, with a contract of employment and a salary while completing training. Aware that ‘you have to see it to be it’, many women apprentices and apprentice graduates are stepping up to tell their stories of experience and success. These stories are captured on the national apprenticeship website www.apprenticeship.ie, with more continuously being added.
Avril Kennedy, an electrical apprentice with ESB Networks, described how she thought that being a woman in a male dominated job was going to be tough, but her experience has been that everyone is treated the same and she is thrilled to be a valued member of a great team.
New female apprenticeship targets
With 1,500 women in a population of 24,000 apprentices nationally there is still a distance to go in growing the ranks of women apprentices. There is a particular challenge in the construction and engineering industries. Some apprenticeship programmes still have no women participating.
A new gender bursary announced by Minister Simon Harris aims to change this, with employers eligible for €2,666 for each apprentice they employ from a minority gender. The target is to have 2,000 women apprentices by the end of 2022. To keep that trajectory going, watch this space.