Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills

Leaving Certificate Reform: Discussion (Resumed)

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I endorse and agree with everything Senator Pauline O'Reilly has said. Earlier, I posed a question about climate skills in trying to help this committee with its deliberations on leaving certificate reform. While we have a role to do with third level in terms of climate and green skills, why are we retrofitting our citizens with those skills at that age when we could be doing it much earlier? They are demanding we do it much earlier, as the Senator knows very well. They are taking to the streets. They want action at every level and to play their part. I do not want, in years to come, a committee asking the Minister of the day how many more places he or she is putting in for people in their 40s, 50s and 60s to get the green skills, when we have a chance to start people in within the education system within an earlier stage.

I agree with the Senator. It is dangerous to categorise children, full stop. What does academic versus vocational even mean? One can be academic in one area and vocational in another. It is about providing as many different pathways to access different skills in different and flexible ways as possible. I am glad the Senator made the point on apprenticeships. If I walked down Grafton Street now and asked people what an apprenticeship was, I guarantee people would tell me it was all the crafts and would list the craft apprenticeships one by one. Of course, they are not wrong and we need more people in those and want to promote and do more but one could do a PhD in an apprenticeship or a master's degree in science in an apprenticeship in Ireland. One can do a level 8 degree as an apprentice. An apprenticeship is not something over here, it is a different way of obtaining that qualification, as Dr. O'Connor will know in QQI.

Apprenticeships are much broader. I met the CEO of an insurance company in a DEIS school the other day. He entered the company through an apprenticeship scheme and is now the CEO. This is the norm throughout the European Union. We are outliers in that regard. We are expanding the number of apprenticeship programmes into areas that have been seen in this country as non-traditional apprenticeship areas. I welcome the Senator's point.