New apprenticeships on the way as part of overhaul

Date Uploaded: 14/07/2014

Chefs, childcare workers, and staff for the retail and ICT sectors could be trained through new apprenticeships as part of plans to widen their availability and appeal.

Talks are under way between employers, trade unions, and state agencies as part of an overhaul of apprenticeships.

This month, a National Apprenticeship Council will be appointed and will oversee calls for new schemes, likely to be proposed by industry groups, colleges, and training centres early next year.

The curriculums for five of the 26 trades in which training is currently available are undergoing reviews due for completion later this year.

The reforms are taking place on foot of a review published last year and whose recommendations are being implemented over the next two years.

Phil O’Flaherty, head of the Department of Education’s further education and training section, said the system has produced high-skilled crafts people who are in demand around the world, but its narrow industrial base exposes it to swings in the domestic economic cycle.

He told the Oireachtas education committee last week enormous efforts had to be made to allow redundant apprentices in construction-related jobs complete their training.

Tony Donohoe, Ibec’s head of education policy, said attitudinal changes to the schemes are needed.

“Apprenticeships and vocational education in general do not enjoy parity of esteem in a society that defines education achievement in terms of CAO points,” he said.

While the review group recommended employers continue paying apprentices during off-the-job training, Mr Donohoe said any new system should see costs shared by employers, apprentices — through acceptance of a lower wage — and the Government.

Peter Rigney, Irish Congress of Trade Unions industrial officer, said a small proportion of employers’ PRSI could be put into the National Training Fund to finance schemes.

The need to bring more women into apprenticeships was stressed by TDs and senators in last week’s meeting, through promotion of existing trades and the broadening of jobs included in the schemes.

Mr Rigney said the childcare sector is a prime candidate for a pilot scheme in extension of apprenticeships.

“The State exercises a predominant role in this sector through regulation and through funding. It could use this position to advance public policy in the apprenticeships area.”


Journalist: Niall Murray

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