New apprenticeships aim to boost options for school leavers

Engineering, hairdressing and wind turbine maintenance to form part of ‘earn and learn’ courses

New apprenticeships in engineering, wind turbine maintenance and hairdressing are among those to be rolled out soon under plans to expand career options for school-leavers. Image: iStock.

New apprenticeships in engineering, wind turbine maintenance and hairdressing are among those to be rolled out soon under plans to expand career options for school-leavers. Image: iStock.

 

New apprenticeships in engineering, wind turbine maintenance and hairdressing are among those to be rolled out soon under plans to expand career options for school-leavers.

Education authorities estimate the number choosing “earn and learn” courses between 2018 and 2020 with double to about 14,000.

It is one of a number of aims set out new strategic performance agreements set by Solas, the body which oversees the further education and training sector.

It acknowledges that the roll-out of new apprenticeships across Education and Training Boards has been slower than initially envisaged.

Independent validation of courses, quality assurance responsibilities and an employer buy-in model have proved challenging to date, according to the plan .

However, it says there is strong commitment and encouraging signs of progress.

Solas, overall, provides about €640 million of funding to the State’s 16 Education and Training Boards (ETBs) and other education providers for more than 300,000 learners each year.

Another key aim in its strategic performance agreement is to boost the number of number of learners in further education courses progressing to third level by 25 per cent .

This is equivalent to an additional 4,500 learners moving from Post-Leaving Cert (PLC) courses into university or institutes of technology by 2020.

Many of these courses provide a route into areas of third level such as science by giving students a foundation year. However, the practice can vary from region to region.

Progression rates

Solas has found that progression rates from PLC courses onto higher or other further forms of further education are currently between 20 and 50 per cent.

The plans envisages supporting relationships between colleges of further education and higher education institutions through local agreements.

These efforts will be supported by national attention on a more consistent framework for progression from further education to higher education.

This will include identifying courses which are providing a foundational education which is intended to facilitate progression directly to third level.

This, it says, can improve retention and overall outcomes for these students when they progress to higher education.

Other aims include boosting employment rates and enhancing the capacity within ETBs to understand and analyse employer needs .

There are also new moves to monitor the individual employment outcomes of those completing ETB courses using anonymised earnings data from the Central Statistics Office.

The plans also says greater understanding of skills needs on the ground is also being linked to more coordinated approaches to working with employers. It says regular engagement events and promotional campaigns targeting industry have also been key in ensuring awareness of the pipeline of potential employees which further education can offer.

It says courses have been developed to respond to the local needs of enterprises, such as for ICT/fintech in Donegal, manufacturing and hospitality and tourism in Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB and biopharma in Cork.