Written answers

Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Apprenticeship Programmes

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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30. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the degree to which his Department continues to facilitate the development of apprenticeship and upskilling educational and or retraining facilities to ensure the availability of sufficient numbers of skilled operatives for the workforce to meet the needs of the recovering and expanding economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49800/21]

Photo of Niall CollinsNiall Collins (Limerick County, Fianna Fail)
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A core focus of my Department's Statement of Strategy is to enable individuals to access the skills required to progress in a way that meets the needs of our economy as it evolves and recovers.

Central to this is the partnership approach between Government, Industry, the National Skills Council, the National Training Fund Advisory Group, the Regional Skills Fora and the Further and Higher Education and Training system. The Department facilitates the development of skilled professionals across all economic sectors through a well planned skills infrastructure and a responsive tertiary education system.

The identification of skills priorities to help inform and shape planning for graduate output from higher and further education is guided by the National Skills Strategy. The Strategy provided for the establishment of the skills architecture that we have today, the National Skills Council and the nine Regional Skills Fora. Underpinning both the skills agenda and architecture are the skills forecasting and intelligence systems, made up of the contribution of a number of public bodies including, at present, the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in SOLAS and the statistical analysis and assessment carried out by the HEA. The detailed research and analyses carried out by these bodies feed into the work of the Skills Council in defining the priorities and delivering responses in the area of skills needs.

The development of apprenticeships, upskilling and retraining existing professionals and other tertiary educational interventions feed into providing for the availability of sufficiently skilled operatives across the workforce. These include targeted interventions such as Springboard+, the Human Capital Initiative at higher education level and also Skillnet Ireland which supports training and development for employed people from short courses and awareness raising measures to level 9 Masters programmes.

A key strength of the apprenticeship model, is that it is a demand-led approach to meeting workforce and skill requirements in our economy. Therefore the number of places is determined by employers with off the job training delivered to all registered apprentices. Actions in the Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025 continue to be implemented, to work towards delivering a flexible and responsive system for employers and potential apprentices, which is attractive and easy to engage with and delivers high standards and sought after qualifications.

The Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme has supported a significant recovery of apprentice registrations in 2020 and into 2021 and has enabled apprentice registrations to exceed registrations for 2019. By the end of September 2021 there were 5,525 new registrations compared to 3,034 at the same time in 2020 and 4,451 in 2019. It is likely that registrations will comfortably exceed 6,500 this year with continued strong registration in craft evident over the traditionally slow summer period.

The work on the Action Plan is running in parallel to work addressing the current backlog for off-the-job, or workshop-based, training for certain craft aprentices. Underpinned by a capital investment of €20 million in 2021 and agreement on changed workpractices to support a time-limited response, the waiting list will be reduced by 40% by the end of 2021 and cleared by end 2022.

Of the 62 apprenticeship programmes currently available, leading to qualifications at level 5-10 on the National Framework of Qualifications. A further 17 programmes are in development in sectors such as agriculture, ICT, hospitality, construction, engineering, horticulture and commercial driving. The development of a new apprenticeship is employer-led, with consortia comprising employer groups and educational providers coming together to identify a skills need and appropriate apprenticeship response in their sector. In addition curricula in apprenticeships are being updated on an ongoing basis to keep pace with changes in industry practices and regulations.

FET provides a diverse range of programmes and supports designed to meet the needs of individuals at different stages of the learning pathway. Courses focused on foundation or transversal skills development, including literacy and numeracy and digital skills, build the core capabilities that allow participants to move on to more advanced learning opportunities. A range of programmes are focused more formally on facilitating pathways to other education and training opportunities and often bridge the gap between foundational learning and accessing vocationally focused programmes. These vocational programmes focus on providing skills that enable direct progression to the workplace, while also enabling pathways into higher education. Vocational programmes typically have a strong work-based component.

The traineeship model combines learning in the classroom and experience in the workplace to improve employment outcomes for participants and increase retention and productivity in the sector. Trainees may include school leavers, older learners, those in employment and those who are unemployed. Traineeships are between 6 to 20 months in duration, with at least 30% of learning being on-the-job and lead to a level 4 to 6 award on the National Framework of Qualifications. Over 75 programmes are available nationally in a range of industries with new Traineeships being developed on an ongoing basis by Education and Training Boards. Further information and a list of traineeships available is available on www.traineeship.ie.

There are a number of key strategies in place at all levels to ensure we meet existing and future skills demands. These include policies designed to ensure a pipeline of suitably qualified Higher Education graduates, and initiatives to equip young people and the working population more generally with the skills and capacity to meet these demands. These strategies and initiatives include: Springboard+; the Human Capital Initiative and Modular Skills Provision. Springboard+ complements the core State-funded education and training system and provides free or 90% funded upskilling and reskilling higher education opportunities in areas of identified skills need.

The Human Capital Initiative (HCI) programme was announced as part of Budget 2019, with a primary objective of underpinning the provision of additional capacity across the Higher Education Sector to meet priority skill needs for enterprise. Funding of €15m provided 11,597 places on 538 Modular courses in 32 higher education institutions in 2020. Following the success of the 2020 July Stimulus programme a further 4,119 places are being made available on Modular Skills Provision courses in 2021. All courses are shorter and more focused and will be offered in a flexible manner, allowing people to gain important skills without taking a considerable period away from the labour market. They will represent a new route into lifelong learning, and provide upskilling and reskilling opportunities for those who need it, while ensuring that they remain close to the labour market.


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