FETRC Director Dr Justin Rami highlights the gender divide in Irish Apprenticeships
Justin Rami presented a paper at this year’s 2019 Journal of Vocational Education and Training biennial conference in Keble College, Oxford, UK. Dr Rami is involved in Apprenticeship research in Ireland and beyond and through his research paper intended to highlight the long road ahead in achieving gender equality in the apprenticeship system in Ireland. Despite being enshrined in the Treaty of Rome’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, equality between men and women continues to elude us, particularly in terms of labour market opportunities. This research stems from a Eurofound report (2018) highlighting gender imbalance as a key weakness in the Irish apprenticeship system. The report highlights very low female participation rates here; in Ireland, less than 1% of apprentices are women, compared with 34% in France, 39% in Germany, 40% in Italy, and just under 50% in Denmark. Dr Rami’s paper discussed the design and provision of targeted gender-diverse ICT apprenticeship programmes in Ireland and reflects on policy and practice internationally. The paper highlighted gender stereotypes that currently pose a barrier for women when opting for apprenticeships as an entry route for careers in the IT industry. The paper poses possible frameworks for the provision of gender-inclusive vocational training that can be adapted to the Irish context. In Ireland, a review of apprenticeship provision, published in 2014 by the Department of Education and Skills, identifies youth unemployment as a key societal challenge and suggests the apprenticeship model as a training model favoured by employers, because VET providers, by maintaining close ties to industry, are seen to react quickly to skills shortages reported by industry. The review has led to the development and introduction in Ireland of two new ICT-related apprenticeship programmes. Moreover, Cedefop’s Skills Forecasts (2018), highlights an ever-increasing demand for ICT skills and indicate that those who complete VET programmes in STEM areas will have a competitive advantage in the labour market. A recent article, in Cedefop’s magazine for promoting learning for the labour market, Skillset and Match (2017), again emphasises the importance of apprenticeships to facilitate access to the European labour market. Importantly, Cedefop claim that VET programmes constitute, ‘an optimal vehicle for supporting female economic empowerment', being both an entry point for tertiary education and for direct entry to the skilled work-force. According to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) submission to the Department of Justice & Equality on the issue of the gender pay gap, 'women in Ireland are working in a system designed by one gender for one gender'. The ICTU acknowledges the Irish Government’s intention, outlined in the National Strategy for Women and Girls, of breaking down barriers to female participation in apprenticeships, particularly highlighting new opportunities to do this with the expansion of the apprenticeship model into new areas, such as IT. This work is part of FETRC's commitment to enhancing vocational opportunities for all learners with a particular focus on STEM.