Recently the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton, announced that 26 new national apprenticeships were approved for further development. These are programmes of structured education and training which combine learning on the job with theory and instruction in an educational institution. They prepare participants for a specific occupation that leads to a qualification.
The Government Action Plan (2016-2020 ) is to double the number of apprenticeships currently available. Budget 2018 allocated €122 million for development, an increase of 24 per cent on the previous year. Traditional craft apprenticeships includes those in construction, electrical, engineering, and motor sections. The Construction Industry Federation has a dedicated website for young people interested in registering their interest in a construction related trade on www.apprentices.ie The area is now slowly extending to white collar jobs such as finance and IT comparable to other European countries. The German model is highly praised as it is reported close to 60 per cent take up of places in an economy where up to 300 types of apprenticeship are available. In Switzerland up to 70 per cent participate in apprenticeships. Apprentices can “earn while you learn” and have a national recognised qualification.
Some of the most recent apprenticeship programmes developed in the last year include insurance, manufacturing engineering, accounting, and hospitality. Others which are now under development include lean sigma manager, horticulture, software engineer, sport turf manager, animation, healthcare, and cybersecurity. The major revamp of the scheme is providing students with a very real alternative to third level. These apprenticeships can lead to a qualification ranging from a higher certificate (Level 6 ) to an honours degree (Level 8 ), the same qualification coming from a university or an institute of technology. They can run from two to four years. More information on the new structure can be found on apprenticeship.ie which is run by the apprenticeship council.
Unfortunately apprenticeships still have an image problem here for some people. They should not be seen as a second rate option to university. They are recognised worldwide. Although graduates may start on a higher wage, they have much higher debts, and the apprentice’s wage increases annually. Apprenticeships give hands-on experience in the working world where you spend different periods on and off the job and you do not have to worry about student loans or fees.
Some people are more suited to a more practical style of education, and the rate of dropout at third level is reported to be a one in six average. It has been said that there is a bias towards third level education in career guidance in school. This could not be further from the truth. Until very recently, apprenticeships were very thin on the ground, at times impossible to find, and the recent recession turned many people off the idea of going into the construction industry. They were a casualty of the recession if anything and there were few alternatives until now.
How does someone become an apprentice?
Applicants must be at least 16 years of age, but for many 18 is the preferable age. Applicants must have a minimum grade D in five subjects in the Junior Certificate. I would always encourage people to do the Leaving Certificate at least if at all possible. If not, if you have some years of relevant experience and are successful at an assessment interview, there are still some possibilities. In some case applicants must pass the Ishihara colour vision test (24 plate edition ). Apprentices must be employed by a SOLAS approved employer for the duration of the programme. There are formal requirements for approval of an employer’s suitability to train and register apprentices. They must demonstrate they have the capacity to provide quality on-the-job training. There are also opportunites for graduates to access programmes, for example the general insurance practitioner apprentice may come from a variety of backgrounds, school leavers, graduates, or career changers.
Contact the apprenticeship section of your local ETB for more information.