Written answers

Tuesday, 12 July 2022

Department of Education and Skills

Apprenticeship Programmes

Photo of Peadar TóibínPeadar Tóibín (Meath West, Aontú)
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715. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the status of the new action plan for apprenticeships which was promised under Our Rural Future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27666/22]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Significant progress is being made in realising the ambition for apprenticeship set out in the Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025published in April last year. The further development and mainstreaming of apprenticeship in Ireland through the creation of a single unified apprenticeship system has a key role to play in meeting Ireland's skill needs in a manner that presents a valued proposition for apprentices and employers alike. Despite the challenges of Covid, significant progress has been made to date;

- The new employer grant of €2,000 will encourage more employers to engage with a wider range of apprenticeships and help to 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.

- The existing bursary for employers of female craft apprentices has been extended to all apprenticeships with over 80% representation of a single gender,

- Two new governance structures have been put in place: the National Apprenticeship Office (NAO) will deliver practical supports and information for employers and apprentices seeking to engage with apprenticeship. The National Apprenticeship Alliance (NAA) brings together a wealth of knowledge and first-hand, practical experience from the worlds of education providers, learners, industry partners and trade unions, to help steer the evolution of the system.

- Over 100 civil and public service organisations have recently been surveyed for their views on apprenticeship and their skills needs. These insights will form the basis of the Public Service Apprenticeship Recruitment Plan, which is currently under development.

- With visits to apprenticeship.ie directly from CAO/options page up to over 32,000 since November 2021, the inclusion of information on apprenticeship as part of the CAO website is expected to make a significant contribution to highlighting the range of learning and qualification options for school leavers, providing learning options both for students who learn by doing as well as vocational and academic routes to a qualification.

- Information sessions and briefings were completed with guidance counsellors and others as part of the CAO initiative October-November 2021. A next phase of promotion is planned with guidance counsellors in 2022 and has been added to the Generation Apprenticeship campaigns.

- Eight new apprenticeship 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. In 2022 more were added - Bar Manager, Wind Turbine Maintenance, and Transport Operations & Commercial Driving. Programme development has been approved for progression in areas such as farming, horticulture, finance, manufacturing, construction, cybersecurity and ICT, and a number of others at the initial proposal stage.

The increased diversity of new apprenticeships, many of which have off-the-job training delivered through online or blended learning provides a significant opportunity for widening of access to apprenticeship for rural businesses and learners. In addition, Education and Training Boards, Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities are spread throughout the country and play a very important role in ensuring apprenticeship provision has a strong regional dimension.

Teagasc received approval from the Apprenticeship Council (now the National Apprenticeship Alliance) to develop 5 apprenticeships; Farm Technician (Level 6), Farm Manager (Level 7), Sportsturf Management (Level 6), Horticulture (Level 6) and Stud Farm Assistant Management (Level 7).

Current legislation in relation to apprenticeship (The Industrial Training Act, 1967 as amended) prohibits statutory apprenticeships in an area of agriculture, horticulture or fishing, which is an activity of primary production, which impacts the Farm Technician, Farm Manager and Horticulture programmes. An amendment to the Act is due to be progressed alongside the Higher Education Authority Bill 2022.

Development work on the 5 apprenticeship programmes is ongoing and programme documentation will be submitted to QQI shortly to commence the validation process. Pending approval by QQI and the removal of the legislative restriction on areas of primary production it is aimed to have these apprenticeships launched by year end. Further details of the programmes, including locations where the training will be provided, will be available once the validation and legislative processes are finalised.


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