Number of school-leavers going for apprenticeships doubles

Career opportunities: ‘Earn and learn’ options are proving more popular for students

The number of school-leavers choosing apprenticeships has almost doubled in recent years as rising numbers of pupils look towards “earn and learn” options.

The current apprenticeship population now stands at 16,000, almost double the 8,300 in apprenticeships in 2015.

While the bulk of the numbers remain in traditional craft areas, new apprenticeships offer school-leavers a chance to get a degree while working in white-collar sectors ranging from accounting to auctioneering and insurance to ICT.

A range of new options are due to be rolled out this year in areas ranging from engineering to wind turbine maintenance and hairdressing.

The Government is due to announce capital funding of more than €7.5 million for nine institutes of technology and Technological University Dublin to help expanding and modernising apprenticeship options over the coming years.

Minister for Education Joe McHugh said ensuring young people and those retraining have access to cutting-edge equipment and the latest thinking on sustainability was key to further developing this increasingly popular option.

“Apprenticeships offer fantastic opportunities, and I would encourage any person looking at their career options, especially students preparing to sit exams this week, to strongly consider the many benefits of apprenticeship.”

The funding will support the roll out of new apprenticeships in plumbing, carpentry, electrical, brickwork, motor painting and decorating, vehicle body repair, fitting, toolmaking and wood manufacturing and finishing.

Third level

The Government is aiming to increase the numbers choosing "earn and learn" options to one in five school-leavers over the coming years. Ireland still has one of the highest proportions of school-leavers progressing to third level in the world, and one of the lowest proportions opting for apprenticeships.

Numbers choosing apprenticeships are growing, however, and have recovered from a dramatic fall-off during the economic downturn.

Mr McHugh said the new funding would enable colleges to provide apprentices with training in the most up-to-date techniques, including sustainable and renewable technologies such as solar and wind energy and energy efficient construction methods and materials.

Some 6,500 apprentices are expected to undertake training in an institute of technology or Technological University Dublin in 2019. It is estimated that by 2020 Ireland will have more than 70 different apprenticeships on offer, with awards ranging from certificate to PhD level.

Apprenticeships are programmes of structured education and training which combine learning in the workplace with learning in an education and training institution. They are typically between two and four years long, and participants are paid for the duration of their programme.

Learners tend to earn between between €11,000 and€32,000 a year for the duration of their apprenticeship depending on the nature and length of the programme.


A recent survey indicates that most young people would consider taking an “earn and learn” apprenticeship as an alternative to the more expensive option of college. However, only a minority – 18 per cent – believe there are currently enough apprenticeship options available to choose from.

The research, commissioned by the Insurance Institute and undertaken by Empathy Research, surveyed about 300 young adults on their perceptions of apprenticeships.

The findings also show that just over half of parents would encourage their child to undertake an apprenticeship.

While third level remains the most popular option, parents stated that the cost and affordability of college was their main worry, with job prospects also a concern with regards to their children’s third-level education.