Will Junior Cycle exam cancellation scupper my son’s plans to do an apprenticeship?

Ask Brian: Junior Cycle is minimum entry requirements for many apprenticeships

My son in third year has always wanted to be an electrician and is determined to leave school before the Leaving Cert and start an apprenticeship. Given that the Junior Cycle has been cancelled, will he still be able to meet the minimum entry requirements?

You are correct: the minimum entry requirement for apprenticeships – managed through the State training agency Solas – is for a a learner to have achieved the Junior Cert/Junior Cycle. However, this year’s exams will not be State certified.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has gone to huge efforts to encourage young people to consider their industry as a worthwhile career pathway

This is because teachers will be marking their own students and students will not sit the traditional written papers in exam halls. Instead of receiving a traditional State-issued Junior Certificate, students will received a school-issued Junior Cycle profile of achievement.

While original plans were for these tests to take place in September, it now looks as if most schools will be organising their own exams or assessments during May.


This has created a dilemma for Solas, as they would normally have a cohort of 16 year olds who apply to register as apprentices each year.

Given the almost total collapse in the numbers seeking construction-related apprenticeships following the economic crash in 2008/9, the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) has gone to huge efforts to encourage young people to consider their industry as a worthwhile career pathway. The last thing they want is a cohort of young people who want to commence apprenticeships in the construction-related trades but end up being blocked from doing so due to a lack of a State-certified Junior Cert.

Having sought guidance on your dilemma from Solas, I have been advised that they do not as yet have a formal policy on how to view the school-based certificates, which all Junior Cycle students will receive this year from their individual schools, as there are a range of stakeholders who will have to be consulted on how to manage this unprecedented situation.

Not impeded

However, they indicated that they are very conscious that a significant number of Junior Cycle students will be choosing to pursue apprenticeships after they reach the school-leaving age of 16.

They say they are actively looking at ways to ensure that the third-year class of 2020 will not be impeded in registering for any apprenticeships managed through the Solas structures.

How this is eventually managed is a matter for Solas and all of the stakeholders involved. However, I am assured from my discussions with them that your son, if he still wishes to, will be able to register as a apprentice electrician in 2021 when he reaches school-leaving age, using his school-based Junior Cycle profile of achievement to meet the minimum entry requirement.