Thursday, 14 July 2022
Department of Education and Skills
612. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if consideration will be given to an increase in the allowances for apprentices from rural areas particularly early years apprentices who often have to travel long distances for work and training due to the rising cost-of-living; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39245/22]
The cost-of-living pressures that have been brought on largely as a consequence of the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine are impacting across society in Ireland. This Government is acutely aware of this and is sensitive to the effects in certain pockets of society more than others. I, as Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, am working with officials in my Department across all areas under my remit to identify and, where possible, address barriers to participation in education as a result of these pressures.
In relation to your specific question, Apprentices are primarily employees and all of the 65 apprenticeship programmes are subject to contracts of employment. For the majority of apprenticeships, the rate of pay is agreed between the apprentice and the employer.
For the 25 craft apprenticeship programmes, the rates of pay applying under the employment contract are either agreed within the relevant sector, or are set out in legally binding Sectoral Employment Orders recommended by the Labour Court.
On that basis, any review of those rates currently payable is a matter for negotiation and agreement under the appropriate industrial relations structures in place. Therefore, it would not be appropriate for me to be involved in the determination of apprenticeship pay or training rates.
It is important to note that, while rates do vary between occupations and sectors, in all cases craft apprenticeship rates are expressed as a proportion of a qualified rate, increasing yearly from 33% of the qualified rate in year one to 90% in year four. Periods of off-the-job training are funded from the National Training Fund with payments of the agreed rate made directly to craft apprentices by the education and training boards during this time.
Additionally, it is important to note that as employees, eligible apprentices are also entitled to access general employment supports through the social welfare system. This option is open to any employee, apprentice or not, who finds themselves in difficulty.
Regarding the increases in the cost of living, there are allowances paid to craft apprentices such as travel, accommodation, and meal allowances. A copy of the current rates for these allowances are attached. These allowances are being examining in the context of the upcoming Estimates process.