Thursday, 9 September 2021
Department of Education and Skills
Further and Higher Education
808. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 1243 of 27 July 2021, the number of places it is anticipated that will be added under each of the programmes (details supplied) of the 50,000 announced under the pathway to work policy document; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41626/21]
The additional 50,000 education and training places referred to in Pathways to Work form part of the Government’s response to the labour market and skills effects of the pandemic. A range of measures were introduced as a response to upskilling and reskilling needs of individuals and businesses through the July Jobs Stimulus and Budget 2021. These measures are providing for 35,000 education and training places to help those who were displaced by the effects of the pandemic. A further 15,000 places were announced as part of the skills package in Budget 2021.
In the further education and training sector, these measures are providing for 21,000 places on the Skills to Complete initiative, an additional 8,550 places through Skillnet Ireland supported programmes, 10,000 places allocated to the Apprenticeship Incentivisation scheme, the roll-out of 1,500 retrofit training places across the country, and an additional 1,600 places on the Skills to Advance initiative.
In the higher education sector, these measures are providing for an additional 3,500 Springboard places, 2,500 places in modular programmes in higher education as well as 2,555 post-graduate places under the HCI Pillar 1.
809. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills further to Parliamentary Question No. 1245 of 27 July 2021, if SOLAS in consultation with further and higher education providers will consider removing the requirement to complete 12 weeks of on-the-job training following the completion of the phase six of an apprenticeship for the apprentices that have faced substantial delays due to waiting lists for off-the job training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41627/21]
835. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the actions taken to address the delays with on-campus phases of apprentices given that the current delays are creating challenges for apprentices and employers. [42223/21]
836. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if an allowance will be made for older apprentices to be prioritised in the current backlog (details supplied); and his plans to address the specific needs of this group of apprentices. [42224/21]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 809, 835 and 836 together.
Craft apprenticeships account for 25 of the 62 existing available apprenticeship programmes. They comprise of a standard seven phase programme of alternating on-the-job and off-the-job phases. The off-the-job training for these programmes is delivered in Training Centres, Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities. Given the practical nature of off-the-job training for craft apprentices, the shutdown of on-site learning activity in 2020 and 2021 had a significant impact on the ability of craft apprentices to progress through their course.
In addition to the general activity surrounding a return to on-site learning across the further and higher education sector a number of specific actions were put in place to support craft apprentices to progress in their training in a timely manner:-
- Craft apprentices were prioritised for a return to on-site learning on 8 March 2021.
- Delivery of off-the-job phases continued over the summer, subject to public health advice and with restricted numbers. This approach assisted institutions and providers in preparing and organising the safe return of larger numbers in the autumn.
- €20m in capital funding has been provided to increase training capacity in the system with SOLAS and HEA allocating this to ETBs and HEIs. This will facilitate an additional 4,000 craft apprenticeship places, assisting significantly with the immediate backlog issues but also more broadly increase training capacity in the apprenticeship system as the sector caters for higher demand.
- An additional €12 million was allocated for 2021 to support additional classes and teaching capacity to ameliorate COVID-19 measures at higher education level (Phases 4 and 6).
- A three-step plan to tackle the backlog in craft apprenticeship off-the-job training over the coming period by SOLAS and further and higher education providers is well developed. 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.
- Phase 2 apprentice commence off-the-job training throughout the year. SOLAS are engaging with the ETBs to maximise and expand provision to clear the waiting lists for phase 2 training.
- Phase 4 and 6 intakes are currently scheduled three time per year – September, January and April. Additional capacity coming on stream at phase 4 and 6 from September has resulted with in the region of 2,500 phase 4 and 6 apprentices scheduled to commence off-the-job training in September, up from 2,100 per intake immediately pre-COVID.
- In the event that Phase 4 and 6 are prevented from returning at full capacity, a number of alternatives remain available to ensure that craft apprentices are not precluded from qualifying in a timely manner, including the potential for competency assessments to allow apprentices to qualify. Any such measure would need to safeguard the integrity of the Craft Certificate qualification.
The SOLAS apprenticeship scheduling management system aims to call apprentices for their off-the-job training on a longest waiting basis on the day of scheduling. There is no facility to prioritise apprentices based on age, or any other factor.
Further updates will be published over the coming weeks on www.apprenticeship.ie.