‘You can’t learn to be a baker by reading a book’

Traineeships offer opportunities across a broad range of areas

Whether you’re just out of school or ready for a change of direction in your career, traineeships are a good opportunity for all ages, backgrounds and stages.

For Claire Gleeson, a 32-year-old living in Kildare town, a traineeship run by Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board was the first step towards a qualification that will allow her to live and work anywhere in the world.

“I didn’t attend third-level education or a course after secondary school,” she says. “I job-hopped for a few years, then Covid hit and I left the job I was in.”

While on a jobseeker's allowance, Gleeson heard about a traineeship in artisan baking with the Bretzel Bakery. The Bretzel Bakery opened in Portobello, Dublin 8 in 1870 and, in recent years, has grown to employ 55 staff and supply artisan breads to SuperValu, Tesco and other bakeries and shops.


“I decided to apply because it sounded very interesting and didn’t require a certain level of previous education like a college course would,” says Gleeson. “The training involved theory and practice which, in the beginning, was carried out over Zoom due to Covid restrictions. We did the training Monday to Friday. On some days, we’d just do theory; on others, we would try baking in our kitchens with ingredients supplied to us by the Bretzel Bakery. We had to make the best of a tricky situation.”

Dymphna O’Brien, managing director of the Bretzel Bakery, says that bakers are absolutely essential to their business, but that a global shortage of bakers posed a challenge. “We need highly-skilled bakers and pastry bakers to produce the food, and we have roles in quality management and other opportunities too. The traineeship is a 24-week blended learning course combining learning with work experience under the guidance of tutors and mentors. Participants learn the theory and practice of traditional baking and the technical knowledge and quality processes behind it.”

Hands-on experience is a vital component, says O’Brien. “You can’t learn to be a baker by reading a book; you have to feel the dough and understand when it is reacting as it should.”

Gleeson was excited when the lifting of some Government restrictions gave her and her classmates a chance to get into the kitchen.

"It meant we could finally get into our brand-new bakery school in Kilcullen for practical [experience] with all the proper new equipment and finish off the course, as well as get work experience in the Bretzel Bakery in both Dublin and Kilcullen [Co Kildare, where the training takes place]."

Because she was on a jobseeker’s allowance when she applied for the course, Gleeson received a payment from the ETB during her time on the course. Some other applicants may also be eligible for a training allowance, but you’ll need to contact the ETB that runs the course for more details.

“I never really knew what I wanted to do after I left school,” says Gleeson. “I found it very hard and being dyslexic didn’t help. It took a lot for me to believe in myself and take the leap with this course.

“I gained a fantastic trade. Mostly, I learned that it’s never too late to step out of your comfort zone and re-educate yourself. I have finally found a career I love, and plans for the future are to stay working for Bretzel and hone my new craft working with some of the best in the business.”

O'Brien says that traineeships offer good prospects. "It was badly needed: most highly-skilled bakers come from outside Ireland, so we had to find a way to recruit internally. As well as baking, graduates of the course might innovate new products or progress to a quality control role."

Traineeships, ultimately, are flexible enough to meet the needs of learners: you could be a college graduate looking to train for a specific role, an unemployed seeking a new opportunity or perhaps even someone who has done a previous traineeship and wants to reskill. Whatever you're looking for, you'll find more information on FetchCourses.ie.

Traineeships Q&A

Who runs traineeships?

They are developed and delivered by the Education and Training Boards (ETBs) who work in partnership with employers and industry representatives, particularly in areas of skills shortages.

What do they look like?

Covid-19 has meant that many traineeships have had to be delivered remotely, but traineeships include at least 30 per cent on-the-job training plus classroom or online learning. They are designed for flexible delivery.

What’s the qualification?

Traineeships lead to a National Framework of Qualifications award between levels four and six, or equivalent. They can be a qualification in their own right or a chance to progress onto a higher certificate or ordinary degree (level six and seven) course. Solas, the further education and training authority, is constantly working to improve progression routes.

Who are they for?

Everybody, from all ages and backgrounds. They’re for school-leavers looking to start their career but there’s nothing to stop, for instance, someone who got their Leaving Cert results in 2021 from doing a traineeship now and, perhaps a few years down the line, from doing an apprenticeship, a post-Leaving Cert (PLC) course or indeed a third-level course leading to a level seven or level eight (higher degree). They’re for people in employment who want a change, or for jobseekers. In addition, anyone on jobseeker’s benefit, jobseeker’s payment, the one-parent family payment, a jobseeker’s transitional payment (JST) or a disability allowance is eligible to participate while still retaining their social welfare payment.

What do they cost?

Traineeships are free to access and some participants may be eligible for a training allowance.

What type of traineeships are on offer?

Traineeships span a wide range of industries including animal science, business, care, construction, engineering, fashion and beauty, finance, hospitality, transport, manufacturing, media, retail and sports and leisure. Graduates of traineeships will have excellent career progression and further learning opportunities.

There are more than 110 traineeships – run in locations across Ireland – listed on FetchCourses.ie. These include marine engineering in Kerry College's Monavalley Campus, an OEM engineering technology traineeship in Monaghan, a Microsoft Traineeship Programme in Tipperary, introduction to business and tourism in Birr, Co Offaly, ICT with manufacturing skills in Ennis, Co Clare, office administration skills in Baldoyle, Co Dublin, and much more. See FetchCourses.ie for more information.