Thursday, 19 May 2022
Department of Education and Skills
314. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the measures his Department is taking to address the backlog in craft apprenticeships, such as electrical, plumbing, carpentry, joinery bricklaying and stonelaying across SOLAS and the higher education sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25530/22]
The backdrop to current wait-lists for essential practical training for apprentices is the extended shutdown of on-site learning activity from March 2020.The closure of education and training facilities in response to the Covid pandemic precluded access to to off-the-job training. The very welcome growth in registrations has compounded pressures on the apprenticeship system to which the education and training system is responding energetically to reduce waiting times.
In terms of the Deputy's question my Department has been advised by SOLAS that currently there are 8,208 apprentices waiting to access off the job training of which 7,228 are waiting for phase 2 and 980 for phase 4 and 6.
Regarding the number of electrical, plumbing, carpentry joinery, and bricklaying and stone laying apprentices specifically, my Department has also been advised that as of 17 May 2022 apprentices waiting for all phases of off the job training included:
- 3616 electrical
- 1162 plumbing
- 844 carpentry
- 98 brick and stone laying
A major element of the response plan is putting in placed additional capacity. Capital funding of €20m was provided in 2020 to extend and upgrade facilities. Classes are now back at their full intake of 14-16 apprentices since last September.
Additional funding of €17m has been provided to SOLAS and HEA to underpin the plan to reduce backlogs, €6m of which is being invested in additional instructors, with over 100 additional posts approved.
More than 8,400 apprentices, over 70% of those delayed by Covid-19, have now progressed. This includes over 700 final year apprentices who have been fast-tracked to complete their qualification
SOLAS and the HEA are working with education and training providers, and with the support of my Department, to identify further solutions that will address the wait-lists, without compromising the quality, standards, and safety of those apprentices. Craft apprentices waiting for phases 4 and 6 is on target to be cleared by mid-to-end of 2022, with the majority of phase 2 wait lists targeted to be cleared by year-end 2022.
315. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if he is satisfied with the classroom spaces currently available to deal with the backlog of apprenticeships; if his attention has been drawn to the fact that it currently could take over six years for electrical apprentices to be fully certified; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18754/22]
Craft apprenticeships account for 25 of the existing 65 apprenticeship programmes. Given the practical nature of off-the-job training for craft apprentices, the COVID-related shutdown of on-site learning activity over the last two years had a significant impact on the ability of apprentices to access off-the-job training. The other apprenticeships have not been delayed but may have had disruption to recruitment in, for instance, hospitality.
Capital funding of €20m was provided in 2020 to extend and upgrade craft apprenticeship facilities across further and higher education institutions. Classes that were running at half capacity under COVID 19 measures are now back at their full intake of 14-16 apprentices since last September.
Additional funding of €17m was provided under Budget 2022 to further facilitate the SOLAS and HEA’s response to the backlogs. €6m is being invested in additional instructors, with over 100 additional posts approved.
As of end April 2022, 8,169 craft apprentices were waiting for access to phase 2, 4, or 6 off-the-job training. The waiting list is tackled in order of those apprentices who have been waiting longest. More than 8,400 apprentices, or over 70% of those who were delayed in their training by Covid-19, have now progressed in their off-the-job training. This includes over 700 final year apprentices who were fast-tracked to complete their qualification.
SOLAS and the HEA are actively working with the education and training providers to identify additional solutions that will address the waiting lists for off-the-job elements of craft apprenticeship to ensure that apprentices are enabled to complete their training as quickly as possible without compromising the quality, standards, and safety of those apprentices.