Growing student interest in apprenticeships stands out at this year’s Higher Options

Thousands of students get chance to quiz colleges in person about study options

The growing popularity of apprenticeships among secondary school students was evident at this year’s Irish Times Higher Options event in Dublin.

Tens of thousands of secondary students attended the sold-out three-day event in the RDS which finishes today.

Along with hundreds of Irish third-level institutions and further education colleges, there has been a sharp rise in interest for the apprenticeship sector as well as college options abroad.

Among the traditional “earn and learn” options in construction, electrical and engineering and the hospitality sector, some popular new options are in finance, accounting, ICT and biopharma.


Martin McVicar, managing director of Co Monaghan-based Combilift, which manufactures multidirectional forklifts, said his company was receiving four applications for every single apprenticeship vacancy for equipment manufacturing.

“It’s a qualification they can bring anywhere in the world; it’s valuable; it’s currency. It’s a chance to start a working career, earn a living and learn at the same time . . . and they finish with a salary that is more than what you get after the same time at third level.”

Janet Stafford, Higher Options 2019 organiser, said this year's event has provided an "unrivalled opportunity" to students who have big decisions to make.

There have been college representatives at this year's event from institutions in England, Scotland, Wales, the Netherlands, France, Hungary, Poland and the US.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent