Written answers

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Apprenticeship Programmes

Photo of Ruairi Ó MurchúRuairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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727. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the workforce demand figures relating to apprenticeship numbers. [14768/22]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Ireland has a developed national skills system across further and higher education and apprenticeship, lifelong learning and human capital development, under the framework of the National Skills Strategy. Underpinned by strong partnership with key stakeholders, it is focused on responding flexibly to priority skill needs and to technology-driven changes in the world of work so that Ireland has a skilled and productive workforce.

Under the National Skills Strategy, the skills ecosystem encompasses the National Skills Council and Regional Skills Fora and labour market information entities including the Skills and Labour Market Research Unit in SOLAS and the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs. This response facilitates engagement, dialogue, and collaboration between relevant Government Departments and agencies, the education and training system, enterprise agencies, and private sector representatives, and informs and drives responsive and flexible forecasting, planning, and provision across all sectors of the economy. It helps to identify skills provision shortfalls to be addressed by the education and training system and concerns relating to labour shortages in particular sectors that relate to other factors.     

In line with commitments in the National Economic Recovery Plan, and in partnership with the OECD, I launched a Skills Strategy Project which will play an important role in ensuring that Ireland's skills system is effective in meeting skills and human capital needs. It will be central to our economic and social sustainability against the backdrop of major trends impacting on the workforce and society including digitisation and climate transition.

Apprenticeship is a demand driven educational and training programme which develops the skills of an apprentice in order to meet industry and labour market needs. Consequently, the number of apprentices being registered is determined by employers in the sector. The development of new apprenticeships is also employer-led and it is open to employers to work with education and training providers to develop new apprenticeships if there is sufficient demand from the sector.  Further details can be found on www.apprenticeship.ie.

The ‘Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025’ aims to ensure that the apprenticeship system will contribute to meeting Ireland’s skills and human capital requirements by delivering on a target of 10,000 apprenticeship registrations per annum by 2025.

The Plan sets out new ways of structuring, funding, and promoting apprenticeships to make them more accessible to employers and learners. Expanding apprenticeship across all sectors of the economy has widened its impact in areas of skills shortage such as Engineering, Technology Skills, Logistics and FinTech. Under the Plan there will be an increase in online visibility of apprenticeship engagement and apprenticeship development processes for employers/sectors who wish to assess the potential for new apprenticeship development.

There are currently 64 apprenticeship programmes on offer: 25 craft programmes and 39 programmes introduced since 2016. Eight new programmes were launched over 2020 and 2021, despite the pandemic: Arboriculture, Equipment Systems Engineer, Healthcare Assistant, Principal Engineer – Professional Doctorate, Recruitment Executive, Sales, Scaffolding, Supply Chain Associate. Two new programmes have launched in recent weeks: Wind Turbine Maintenance and Bar Manager with another, Transport Operations and Commercial Driving also expected to launch shortly.

There are 12 additional programmes being developed across agriculture, construction, engineering, equine, finance, horticulture, hospitality and food, ICT and logistics. A number of other potential apprenticeships are at an exploratory stage, in sectors such as health, beauty, environmental, engineering, ICT and finance.

A total of €34 million was provided in Budget 2022 to expand apprenticeship, including the development of new programmes noted above, the establishment of the National Apprenticeship Office which will operationalise the new system, and funding to introduce a new employer grant. This grant of €2,000 per eligible apprentice is designed to encourage more employers to engage with a wider range of apprenticeships and to help encourage the development of new programmes. It also means that, for the first time, all employers will receive a level of support towards the cost of apprentice training.

In 2021 there were a record 8,607 registrations- up from 6,177 for 2019, the last pre-COVID full year, and the highest annual registrations since the 2006 figure of 8,306, showing the high degree of interest in this career option amongst both employers and potential apprentices. At the end of 2021, the overall apprentice population was 24,212.

The increase in registrations, despite the pandemic, provides us with a solid pipeline of new talent coming through the apprenticeship system and highlights the huge interest in this area of training. The measures I have outlined above, combined with other deliverables in the Action Plan, mean that we are supporting further progress towards achieving the vision articulated in the Plan and can respond to identified skills shortages.  

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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728. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he will respond to matters raised in correspondence (details supplied) regarding greenkeeping in Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14812/22]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Apprenticeships are available in many sectors such as manufacturing, hospitality, construction, and retail.  The continued expansion of the apprenticeship system into new sectors of the economy such as agriculture and horticulture, together with the opportunity of online and blended learning, will bring real opportunities for learners and employers throughout the country. 

This is a key priority under the Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025, which aims to increase annual registrations to 10,000 across an increasing range of programmes, in line with skills demands within the economy.  

Proposed amendments to the Industrial Training Act, 1967, to widen the potential scope of new apprenticeship programmes are included under the General Scheme of Higher Education Authority Bill 2022. This will facilitate the development of programmes such as greenkeeping. The Bill was published in January of this year and is currently at committee stage.

The Deputy should note that regarding the area of sports turf management that there is currently an apprenticeship in development in the area of Sports Turf Management. Subject to the legislative changes referenced above, this will be able to be considered under the usual development process. 


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