Targets for public sector to hire apprentices under new strategy

Plan to increase apprenticeship registrations from 6,500 to 10,000 a year by 2025

Public services will be given targets to take on apprentices as part of new strategy to boost the number of school leavers choosing alternatives to third level under plans being developed by Minister for Further and  Higher Education Simon Harris. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Public services will be given targets to take on apprentices as part of new strategy to boost the number of school leavers choosing alternatives to third level under plans being developed by Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

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Government departments, local authorities and State agencies will be given targets to take on apprentices as part of new strategy to boost the number of school leavers choosing alternatives to third level.

The action plan, to be launched soon, aims to increase the number of annual apprenticeship registrations from 6,500 to 10,000 by 2025.

At present there are only about 300 apprenticeships in the wider public sector.

Under the plan, State bodies will be incentivised to start new apprenticeships across a range of areas such as accountancy and administration.

There will be also financial incentives for private industry to take on apprentices and trainees.

It follows a consultation which included surveys of thousands of apprentices, hundreds of employers and trade unions .

The blueprint is also understood to include an “apprenticeship consortium” which will consist of employers, sectoral employee representatives and education and training providers with the aim of updating the skills required for each of the apprenticeships.

Obsession

There are also plans for a national apprenticeship office to help co-ordinate and review the wider area of apprenticeships.

The plan is being spearheaded by Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris, along with Minister of State Niall Collins.

Solas, the State agency responsible for overseeing the further education and training sector, will play a key role in expanding the apprenticeship sector.

Mr Harris has said an obsession with higher education and a “second best” attitude towards apprenticeships is contributing to pressure on students around the annual points race.

He said the CAO system is also “narrowing” the conversation around education options for students.

To counter this, Mr Harris said he is progressing plans for a single portal to be available from next year which would allow students have full visibility of further and higher education options, as well as traineeships and apprenticeships.

“We are having a conversation with students about the name of the university they want to go to before having the conversation with them about what they want to do in life,” Mr Harris told the Dáil recently.

He said that boosting the visibility of apprenticeships will help ensure more students see it as a viable and rewarding career path.

In the meantime, there are concerns that CAO points for this year’s college applicants could climb to a new high due to a combination of greater demand for places and grade inflation linked to the use of accredited grades.

Expansion

The Government is examining the potential for adding further places into the further and higher education system this year, especially in high-demand areas such as medicine, nursing and other health areas.

A working group has been established by the Department of Further and Higher Education which includes representatives from universities and institutes of technology to examine the scope for further expansion.

“We want to do more,” Mr Harris told the Dáil. “ I really think we can do something good here if we work right across the Government and not just in a departmental mode.

“Some of these extra places will also require placements so, for instance, if one wants to create an extra place in nursing, it requires a clinical placing. It is the same in medicine, in that if one want to create an extra teaching post, it requires a teaching placement.

“We are working across departments in this regard and I intend to update the Government in April on what more we can do for this year’s Leaving Certificate students in terms of expanding the size of our further and higher education system.”