The Connect trade union is calling for actions to be taken by industry to increase female participation in trade apprenticeships.

Delegates will debate the issue at Connect's Biennial Conference in Wexford today.

The motion will focus on the inclusion of measures in employment agreements such as full maternity pay, parental leave and enhanced supports for women's health and welfare.

"Whereas other industries are now discussing increased supports for women dealing with menstruation and the menopause, the construction and other sectors which employ trades workers have not even dealt with the issue of adequate toilet facilities," said Connect Assistant General Secretary, Brian Nolan.

"Unfortunately, this issue is not one which is isolated to Ireland, even in what are perceived as more progressive European neighbours, such as Denmark, female participation in the trades is only estimated to account for 3% of the workforce. In Ireland it is even lower," Mr Nolan said.

Connect says other measures could include Government moves to have the €3,000 bursary given to employers who take on apprentices repurposed, in the case of female apprentices, to help pay for any additional changes to support their involvement in the trade.

"Also, doing away with student apprentice charges for women could make entry into the trades more accessible," Mr Nolan said.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Innovation and Science Simon Harris said he fully agrees with the Connect union about the importance of diversifying apprenticeships.

"To this end, this year he has introduced a new gender bursary which provides an employer with an additional €2,666 per year for every apprentice they hire to improve gender balance," the spokesperson said.

"In addition this week, Minister Harris informed Cabinet that he will be establishing a new group on equity of access to apprenticeships by the end of the year to advise him on further policies that can be pursued."