Action plan for apprenticeships

Following the conclusion of the Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeship and Traineeship in Ireland 2016–2020, the Government has launched the consultation process for its next apprenticeship action plan.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, and Minister of State for Further Education and Skills Niall Collins TD launched the consultation process for the next action plan for apprenticeships in Ireland in August. The number of people registering for an apprenticeship almost doubled between 2016 and 2019, jumping from 3,153 to 6,177.

However, the Government has noted that of those 6,177, just 2.7 per cent self-declared as having a disability and 4 per cent are female. The new action plan will seek to build on the Programme for Government and the Further Education and Training Strategy that was launched in July to “set out a five-year pathway to embed apprenticeship in enterprise and will provide a comprehensive set of actions designed to increase the diversity of learners who chose apprenticeship programmes”. 

Apprenticeships are currently offered through 55 programmes in Ireland, with a further 23 in development for rollout “during 2020 and beyond”. The qualifications take from two to four years to complete and cover levels 5-9 of the National Framework of Qualifications (NFQ).

Speaking at the launch, Minister Harris said: “We know that our apprenticeship model needs to be revised and this consultation is the beginning of that process. We also know we need to expand the model and change people’s mind set of what an apprentice is and is not. The apprentice model is no longer confined to craft trades. It has expanded to the financial services sector, to ICT and accounting. Now we must look to expand it to where skillsets are most needed including in the area of childcare and the health service and crucially where it may be needed in the future.”

The week before the commencement of the consultation process, Harris announced a new incentive scheme for employers, allowing them to earn up to €3,000 for each apprentice in their employ. The companies availing of the scheme will collect €1,000 upon the apprentice’s appointment and a further €2,000 if the apprentice is still in post 12 months later. 

Reviewing the figures forecast and targeted in the Action Plan to Expand Apprenticeships and Traineeships in Ireland 2016-2020 reveals a failure on the part of the previous government to hit the targets it had outlined for itself. 9,000 total apprenticeship registrations were targeted for 2020 and if the outbreak of Covid-19 can excuse the failure to reach that target (as is expected), no such excuse exists for the failure to meet 2019’s target of 7,384. While the 6,177 registrations in 2019 did mark significant progress from 2016, this number did still fall quite short of its intended level.

With the economic damage wrought by Covid-19, it is perhaps not surprising that incentives are required to support the taking on of apprentices. Starting with the scheduled expansions of apprenticeships to 78 programmes and to level 10, the highest level of the NQF and PhD equivalent, the new action plan will need to continue its diversification of portions if the Government is to reach its goal of more overall registrations and the diversifications of those registering.

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