We’re all having to be adaptable during Covid-19. The certainties of both education and employment are melting away. More remote working requiring very different patterns of thinking. We are already witnessing an increased emphasis on IT and data. And businesses need employee flexibility and adaptability at the same time as they face pressure to be more ethical and responsible in how they treat both staff and the wider environment.
In education, remote working and learning will become important, but teachers will also have to be more responsive to the needs of learners, which should increasingly see the learner voice listened to in far more than a tokenistic way.
Throughout education, one sector is already perhaps more adaptable to changing needs than any other, and that’s workplace training.
“Employers have always had to be very adaptable,” says Alan McGrath, director of apprenticeships and workplace learning at Solas, the further education and training authority. “Courses vary in duration between six and 20 months, and involve a minimum of 30 per cent on-the-job learning. We are really seeing a lot of innovation in this sector because of the pandemic, with a shift to Zoom, MS teams and small tutorial groups. All the training has been based on public health advice, and the longer the traineeship, the more adaptable it can be.”
“Traditionally, traineeships were unemployed people looking at their options, but that is changing,” says McGrath. “We are seeing many women returning from having children who are using traineeships and PLCs to upskill or increase their qualifications. What’s most important is that learners find a course that interests them and are aware that it can open doors to higher education: trainees have a chance to progress on to level six or seven NFQ programmes and we are improving the local arrangements and progression routes all the time.”
The numbers enrolled have fallen slightly. At the end of June, there were 893 learners who had started a traineeship in 2020, including 200 people under the age of 25 and 693 over that age. About 51 per cent of learners are female and 49 per cent are male.
Course portal FetchCourses.ieis well designed to enable potential learners find the course that suits them best, in the best location. "These courses are so local and there is a facility in pretty much every community," says McGrath.
Traineeships: what’s on offer?
Traineeships span a wide range of industries including animal science, business, care, construction, engineering, fashion & beauty, finance, hospitality, transport, manufacturing, media, retail and sports and leisure. Within this, the course portal FetchCourses.ie currently lists over 110 traineeships including:
Legal studies administration with European Computer Driving License: a 52-week course comprising 50 per cent work-based learning in a solicitor's practice and 50 per cent classroom and online learning blend. This course takes place in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.
Pharmacy sales: A 32-week course during which participants will learn what they need to know about working in a pharmacy as well as gain opportunities to upskill to different roles including pharmacy technician, purchasing, merchandising and more. This course takes place in Baldoyle, Dublin 13.
Professional HGV training programme: On this 30-week course, trainees will learn what they need to know in order to gain employment in driving rigid and artic body heavy good vehicles. This course takes place in Wexford Town
Horticulture traineeship: Over 30 weeks, participants on this course will learn the skills needed to work as a general operative in horticulture and gain the knowledge, skills and competence to select, establish, grow and maintain a range of plants. The course will open up further employment and learning opportunities for interested graduates. It takes place at Sligo Training Centre.
OEM engineering technology traineeship: This 38-week is the stepping stone for a career in engineering and will provide learners with the skills and knowledge needed for a career in engineering, fabrication, welding, electrical and electronics. It takes place in conjunction with Combilift, a major employer in Monaghan.
Storytelling and documentary making: This is an unusual traineeship that displays how innovative and adaptable these types of courses are. On this course, which takes place one evening a week across ten weeks, participants will gain the skills to work in media including research; print, radio and video journalism; creative audio production and radio/podcasting production. This course takes place in Tralee, Co Kerry. A related course, digital journalism and radio broadcasting, runs for 52 weeks in Kerry and has similar course content and learning outcomes.
Trainee profile: Martyna Marek, hairdressing traineeship
Covid-19 has changed how we think about hairdressing, says Martyna Marek, a 20-year old former trainee who completed the hairdressing traineeship at the Further Education and Training Centre in Raheen, Limerick, last year.
People really missed their hairdressers during the closures and realised the importance and value of their skills. “We’re booked out for two months; everyone needs a hairdresser,” says Marek.
“I always knew I wanted to be a hairdresser,” says Marek. “The course involved computer work and theory at first. There’s also some science on it as we learn about the scalp, skin and hair and what works on different scalp and hair types. Then we learned some entry-level skills around shampooing, styling, cutting, plaiting , dressing and twisting.”
Marek followed up this traineeship with a course on hair cutting. As part of her qualification, she worked with Siobhán Burke, owner of Alley Cuts Hair and Beauty Salon in Newcastle West, Co Limerick, who provided her with on-the-job training. The salon offers a wide range of Keune colour and Keune and Kerastase hair products.
“The best training is working in a salon in a traineeship in conjunction with the school,” says Burke. “The trainee gets the basics of hairdressing and then moves to the salon for the practical work, which gives them an environment to practice and learn their individual skills. This is beneficial for both the trainee and the employer.”
Marek’s traineeship provides a pathway to the new national hairdressing apprenticeship, which Limerick and Clare ETB are the lead coordinating providers for.