Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Dundalk Institute of Technology and SOLAS: Chairpersons Designate

Photo of Donnchadh Ó LaoghaireDonnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I echo the last point. The percentage of female apprentices last year was 4% and at some previous stage it was 2%. I commend Mr. Aylward. He seems entirely qualified for the position. His presentation was very impressive. Like Deputy Byrne, I will highlight a few areas.

Many of the same themes were raised by Deputy Thomas Byrne. We had a very interesting engagement with the world skills participants. It was striking that these were world-beaters in their given trade or occupation but many spoke of the support or encouragement they received in their schools to pursue apprenticeships. That was not uniformly the case but they indicated that there was no great emphasis on apprenticeships in their schools and they were not really encouraged to pursue them. Third level institutions, universities, the technological universities and institutes of technology might do a bit more but is there scope for SOLAS and using the world skills participants as exemplars to go into schools and outline the potential? The number of apprenticeships is increasing in recent years, from about 6,200 to 12,000, but is still very low. The combined allocation for the national training fund and SOLAS has only increased by about 9%, which is not appropriate relative to the increase in apprentices. The number of different trades and occupations is much less than exists in some European countries, where it is well into the hundreds. In Ireland the number is somewhere in the 40s.

I raised instrumentation with Mr. Andrew Brownlee when he was before the committee previously. It is a really attractive trade with a real shortage of workers. Many businesses, particularly pharmaceuticals, are crying out for them and it is great for the people who are currently in the trade but many more people could make a very good living at it.

I do not mean to be parochial, but I understand that it is not possible to do a painting apprenticeship in Cork now. One may serve one's apprenticeship in Cork but the classes or SOLAS element requires travelling to Dublin. This is causing people to pick other trades or discourage them from taking on painting. That might be more of an operational matter so if Mr. Aylward cannot respond, that is okay, but perhaps he can take a note and look into it. It is one of the big trades with countless people involved.