Apprenticeship access is a must for Westmeath’s youth

The number of young persons under 26 years of age that are in receipt of jobseeker’s allowance, jobseeker’s benefit or signing for credits for one year or more in county Westmeath is 299, according to new figures from Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

In response to this we need the development of, and investment in, an ‘access apprenticeships programme’ to support young people with fewer opportunities and qualifications. That was the message from James Doorley, Deputy Director, National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI ) who was speaking at the publication of the organisation’s pre-budget submission.

In its Pre-Budget 2019 submission ‘Future Proof with Investment in Youth’ the NYCI, which represents youth organisations working with over 380,000 young people nationwide, is calling for an investment of €22 million in the education, training and access to apprenticeships to halve long-term youth unemployment by the end of 2019.

"Census 2016 indicates that our population aged 10-24 years will increase to over one million by 2025, so we need to invest in policies, services and supports to meet the needs of young people today, while preparing for demographic pressures in the coming years.

"While we welcome job growth in the Irish economy and the consistent trend of reduced youth unemployment, we are concerned about the 8,915 young people who are now long-term unemployed. We have costed a number of measures to help reduce this figure by half in 2019," Mr. Doorley commented.

Addressing such measures, the NYCI Deputy Director noted that financial investment is key.

"Among these measures, we are proposing that €2m is invested in an access to apprenticeship programme. We welcome the growth in apprenticeships in the last number of years. The number of apprentices in training in 2017 was 12,849, up from 10,445 in 2016 driven by a 53 percent increase in the number of new entrants between 2015 and 2017. We support the overall Government commitment to double the number of new entrants by 2020 to 9,000 per annum with the introduction of a range of new apprenticeships including in areas such as animation, horticulture and healthcare,” Mr. Doorley continued.

Mr. Dooley stressedd the importance of a wide range of apprenticeships being available to all young people in the future.

"As we expand the number and range of apprenticeships, however, it is vital that these opportunities remain open to all young people, in particular young people who are economically and socially disadvantaged and those who have limited formal qualifications.

"The entrance criteria for some apprenticeships now require qualifications to a certain level in some subjects. Where a young person has the motivation and aptitude for a trade but cannot meet these entrance criteria, an access programme can assist the young applicant to meet the entry requirements. Likewise, such access programmes could promote the greater participation of young women in apprenticeships, which is very low at present at just over one percent," Mr. Doorley added.

Noting the Government's continuing financial assistance to Higher Education, the Deputy Director said increasing apprenticeship fund availability is a necessity.

"The Government rightly spends over €31m supporting access to Higher Education, therefore we believe our proposal is a modest yet necessary measure to assist young people with fewer opportunities to avail of the growing number of apprenticeships available at present. This €2m investment would be part of the overall €22m additional investment in Budget 2019 which NYCI recommends in order to halve the number of young people long-term unemployed by the end of 2019.

"The gross cost IS €22m, as this investment would lead to reduced social welfare payments as more young people move into employment," Mr. Doorley concluded.

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