Wednesday, 21 February 2018
I ask the Minister for Education and Skills to include the traditional trade of cooper in the list of apprenticeships for Ireland. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy John Halligan, to the Chamber. He is a man who has a great passion for apprenticeships. I note the announcement that 50,000 apprenticeship and training places will be brought before Government in 2020 via the new policy. It is an important statement of intent to ensure that trades and apprenticeships are promoted. The Minister of State is leading the way on that regard.
There are 27 different apprenticeships available in Ireland. Other countries, such as Germany, have anything up to 300 apprenticeship programmes which take into consideration some of the more traditional arts. I wish to bring one such trade, which is in many ways a dying trade, to the attention of the Minister, that of cooper. Coopers were a major part of this city and country's heritage over many decades. Hundreds, if not thousands, of coopers worked in Ireland in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. They made barrels for the distilling and brewing industries and it is a recognised worldwide trade. Whether one is in Scotland, Canada or other countries, coopers are considered to be skilled artists if not tradespeople.
We should consider having an apprenticeship programme for coopers so we can ensure the trade can be kept alive in Ireland. It is an important and integral part of the whiskey industry. In many ways, it is one of the key elements in ensuring our thriving whiskey industry can move to the next level. In June 2017, we launched a comprehensive tourism strategy for the whiskey industry which proposed tripling the tourist numbers coming to Ireland in terms of the whiskey industry between now and 2025. Part of that involves visitor centres, which are springing up all around west Cork and other parts of Ireland. We need to show how whiskey is distilled and the craft of the cooper so that we can show how barrels and caskets are made. That is an important part of telling this unique story.
We currently have a shortage and we need to work with the Department to ensure we can train skilled craftsmen and that the industry and craft can survive. There is no fear about the whiskey industry, but we need to tell the story from the beginning from where it starts in the fields to the craft of the people who make barrels and how we can ensure this part of our culture can be maintained. We should include coopers on the list of apprenticeships and work with the industry to promote this skill and art so that the entire industry can rise with the rise of the whiskey industry.
I thank Senator Lombard for a very interesting question. I read up on coopers and found it astoundingly interesting. I thank him for his very kind words.
Apprenticeships are demand-driven educational and training programmes which aim to develop the skills of an apprentice in order to meet the needs of industry and the labour market. The Government is committed to supporting the increased registration of apprentices across all sectors. A key commitment in the action plan is to expand apprenticeship and traineeship to achieve 9,000 annual new apprenticeship registrations by 2020; almost doubling current levels of activity.
Since the 1970s it is estimated that over 100,000 apprentices have been trained through the Irish system. Over the last number of decades we have seen major changes to our economy and the nature of our employment, and this is reflected in the types of apprenticeships being developed.The Government is currently expanding the range of apprenticeships on offer to meet the identified skill needs of industry. Arising from our first call for apprenticeship proposals in 2015, 11 new apprenticeships have been developed in a wide range of sectors, including financial services, engineering, information and communications technology, ICT, and accounting.
In addition, arising from last year’s second call for proposals, we recently announced 26 new programmes for further development into national apprenticeships across a wide variety of sectors, including construction, engineering, horticulture and agriculture. However, currently there are no proposals resulting from our open calls to develop an apprenticeship in the cooper trade and I will go into that further later. The new programmes, in development, will add to and complement the range of apprenticeships currently on offer. It is estimated that the development process will take 12 to 15 months.
I spoke to the Senator outside the Chamber and he made interesting and forthright remarks regarding trades that go under the radar that could have an impact on our tourism industry. The objective of all apprenticeships is job creation first and foremost and the development of the economy through sustainable jobs and the long-term sustainability of crafts. We have many apprenticeships in the crafts sector. I am very interested in what the Senator said. Having read up on cooperage and the craft involved, the Senator's proposal is a very interesting one.
When we do a call out for apprenticeships a combination of factors is involved, including the involvement of the education and training boards, ETBs, businesses and even the trade union movement which will have an interest and will point to the lack of lack of apprenticeships here and there. Cooperage is one that has not come on our radar. Other apprenticeships such as film animation did not come on our radar until people came forward and said there was an interest in it and we then opened up an apprenticeship on it.
I know the Senator has a great interest in this area. He needs to contact the ETBs about this proposal. An assessment of it needs to be done, with which we can help the Senator, to ascertain if there are people interested in cooperage, and I suspect there will be, as it is a great trade. I can appreciate the value of it in promoting tourism and bringing tourists to see a cooper in action. The Senator might contact the ETBs for information on it. Apprenticeships are worked through the ETBs, while traineeships are done through SOLAS. The Senator could ask the ETBs to do an assessment and he could then contact my Department and we would work on it together to see if there is a need for such a proposal. If the indications were such that an apprenticeship in the cooper trade was necessitated, the Senator would have my assurance that we would do a call out for that.
I thank the Minister of State for his forthright remarks. He has been very helpful on this matter. I will definitely abide by his advice and we will work together. It is to be hoped we will be able to get some movement on this important issue.
Without going over old ground, there is a great interest among the ETBs and the Government in crafts and we do assessments on them all of the time. All the apprenticeships associated with crafts are on the increase. It would be interesting for me to make further contact with the Senator to see how we can develop this proposal. It would be a good thing for the Government to do, and it is also welcome that the Senator raised this proposal in the House, because this skill has gone under the radar. Having read all the statistics on it and history of it, it is an important issue for craftsmanship in Ireland and for the development of our tourism industry. We will talk again on the matter.