‘Ambitious, capable’ young must consider apprenticeships

Bruton aims to make on-the-job training an attractive option for 20% of school-leavers


Parents need to encourage their children to consider apprenticeships if Ireland is to build up a successful German-style training system for school-leavers, Minister for Education Richard Bruton has said.

The number of people taking on apprenticeships plummeted during the recession, falling from about 29,000 to just over 5,700 in 2013.

At the same time, record numbers of school-leavers are applying to study in higher education.

The Government has launched a new plan to make apprenticeships and traineeships an “attractive and respected” option for at least one in five school-leavers .

The plan includes broadening the number of apprenticeships beyond traditional areas – such as construction and engineering – and into ones such as medical devices and financial services.

It also includes speeding up the process for launching new apprenticeships, as well as detailed annual targets.

Graduate route

“Our ambition is that 20 per cent of young people would have the option of going into an apprenticeship at the end of this plan,” Mr Bruton said.

“I was in Liebherr in Killarney recently. They said more of their leadership comes through the apprenticeship route than through the graduate route.

“They get that embedded, practical experience and capacity to innovate and change from the apprenticeship route. We have to sell that to the mammies and daddies of Ireland to see it as of equal status,” he said.

A key challenge includes increasing the number of women in the sector.

Women accounted for just 33 out of the 10,315 State-funded apprenticeships last year.

Mr Bruton said there are hopeful signs of progress, with a new apprenticeship in the insurance sector with women accounting for almost half of students.

“By broadening the range of apprenticeships on offer – and we hope to have 40 by 2020 – you’ll have a much broader range of skills in areas like medical devices and financial service, where woman are getting a much better foothold,” Mr Bruton said.

Employers’ group Ibec said it welcomed the fact that a plan was now in place with specific targets, clear steps for development and commitments to timelines.

“It is critical that this is met if we hope to create new apprenticeships quickly enough to react to emerging skills needs,” said Ibec’s head of education and policy Tony Donohoe.


“We believe that this will offer a real alternative to ambitious and capable young people who may be looking for alternatives to direct entry from school to higher education.”

However, the Restaurants’ Association of Ireland said it was “deeply dismayed” at the “snail’s pace progress” in establishing a new commis chef apprenticeship.

“There seems to be turf warfare and control of territory between some State bodies and agencies with the long-running saga of setting up commis chef apprenticeship programmes,” said Adrian Cummins, the association’s chief executive.

“Ultimately, it’s the small businesses across Ireland that will lose out due to shortage of skilled chefs and hospitality staff, with many business owners travelling overseas to recruit hospitality staff from eastern Europe. ”

Fianna Fáil’s education spokesman Thomas Byrne said there was little substance behind the plan, which appeared to repeat pledges from previous policy documents.

“The Minister has simply repeated the commitment made in the programme for Government to double the number of apprenticeships.

“This is an ambitious target, but we have been given no details on how the Minister intends on achieving this. In fact, there wasn’t even an accompanying document issued with the announcement,” he said.