Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Leaving Certificate Reform: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Pádraig O'SullivanPádraig O'Sullivan (Cork North Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Pauline O'Reilly for letting me in early. I would like to begin by asking each of the witnesses who are still here to elaborate on the question I raised earlier with the Minister. What we can do to encourage greater participation from people with special educational needs or with disabilities into our education system and on to the workforce?

I was listening to the discussion earlier from my office about how useful and practical transition year work experience can be. To give my own experience, that is where I found that I wanted to be a teacher, having worked with a disability service provider. I was 15 or 16 years of age. I worked there once a week over the course of a school year. After that, I worked in a local national school. That is where I made the decision that I wanted to be a teacher. That pathway was obvious to me at that point because I was given that opportunity. I had a number of friends who did the conventional apprenticeships, such as plumbing, electrics, or fabrication, in some cases.

They got a similar flavour for that and subsequently, they went on and trained in those fields. We need to highlight the importance of TY work experience and the impression it can give people for their career paths. I ask the witnesses to comment on that and on the importance of TY.

I want to raise apprenticeships, which we always talk about in this committee and I have listened to various witnesses discuss it. I have gone on a tour of a few universities in recent weeks and many of the providers there spoke of our ambitious targets for apprenticeships. When one hears the word "ambitious" being flung around, one wonders whether we can meet those targets. I know we will have difficulties due to the Covid pandemic but certain universities and providers have difficulties with capacity, for example. Those capacity issues have been exacerbated due to providing for social distancing, air ventilation and whatever the restrictions on capacity might be. We need to examine how we will combat that in the short term because it will have a knock-on effect for all the schemes we are talking about in these Houses every week, be it retrofitting or whatever.


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