Wednesday, 14 July 2021
Department of Education and Skills
274. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the number of apprentices waiting to access off-the-job training; the number that have been waiting for over a year; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38420/21]
Craft apprenticeships account for 25 of the 61 existing available apprenticeship programmes. The off-the-job training for these programmes is delivered in Training Centres or Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities. It is these programmes which were those most impacted by the shutdown of on-site learning activity in 2020 and 2021 given the practical nature of the apprenticeships; training centres and workshops having been closed for 9 of the past 14 months.
End of May figures indicated that over 10,000 apprentices were waiting for access to Phase 2, 4 and 6 off-the-job training, of these 3,500 craft apprentices had been waiting over 12 months.
Craft apprentices were prioritised for a return to on-site learning on 8 March 2021. Delivery of off-the-job phases is proceeding, and will continue over the summer, subject to public health advice and with restricted numbers. This approach will assist institutions and providers in preparing and organising the safe return of larger numbers in the autumn.
The Government has committed to a significant increase in onsite attendance in the tertiary education sector in the next academic year. Following consultation with sectoral stakeholders and following Government approval, A Safe Return: Plan for a safe return to on-site Further and Higher Education and Research in 2021/22 was recently published. The Plan reflects the essential nature of higher and further education and training including apprenticeships. It provides for comprehensive on-site activity for the next academic year, with almost full scale on-site activities.
To support the Plan, the sector has developed a Pact of actions and commitments to ensure that the return is safe. With specific reference to the issue of backlogs, under this Pact, institutions and providers have committed to addressing backlogs and deferred learning outcomes. Similarly, stakeholder bodies have committed to engaging with institutions and providers to achieve significant increases to on-site teaching, learning, assessment and research, to progress mitigating actions and to address backlogs.
A three-step plan to tackle the backlog in craft apprenticeship off-the-job training over the next 12 to 15 months is currently being worked on between SOLAS and further and higher education providers. Step 1 of the plan includes an increase in the number of training workshops available across further and higher education from September 2021 onwards. Steps 2 and 3 involve tailored emergency approaches to accelerate the throughput of apprentices at Phases 2 and 6 for a designated period of time.
€20 million in additional capital expenditure has been allocated to SOLAS and the HEA to facilitate an additional 4,000 craft apprenticeship places across the system in the coming period and into the future. This is in addition to €12 million which had already been allocated to support additional classes and teaching capacity to ameliorate COVID-19 measures.