18 November, 2014 - Ministers O’Sullivan and English Announce Renewal of the Apprenticeship System

The Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan TD, together with the Minister of State with Special Responsibility for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD, today (18th November 2014) launched the new Apprenticeship Council.  The establishment of the Apprenticeship Council is a key action in the implementation of the recommendations of the recent review of the Irish Apprenticeship System In particular, the Council is tasked with the expansion of apprenticeship into new sectors of the economy.

Announcing the establishment of the Apprenticeship Council, Minister O’Sullivan said “I am very confident that with today’s launch of the Apprenticeship Council, we now have an excellent basis for renewing the apprenticeship system in Ireland.  I am determined to see apprenticeships becoming a strong, relevant, quality model of learning in both further and higher education and training across a wide and diverse set of trades and sectors”.

“There is strong take-up of apprenticeships currently available, with those embarking on apprenticeships 47% higher than at this time last year.  We are currently reviewing the course content for those apprenticeships to ensure they provide people with the best training possible.  The Apprenticeship Council will map out the sectors where new apprenticeships can make a real difference to both employers and future employees.”

As part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs initiative the Department of Education and Skills undertook a review of the Irish apprenticeship system to determine whether the current model should be retained, adapted or replaced.  The review examined the needs of both learners and industry to ensure that Ireland has a value for money system that is cost effective and sustainable into the future. The current apprenticeship system was developed and implemented in the early 1990s.  Over that 20 year period there have been major changes in our economy and in the way in which people are employed, and a review was undertaken in that context. 

Amongst the comprehensive recommendations arising from the review process was the establishment of an “Apprenticeship Council”.  One of the first tasks of the Apprenticeship Council will be to issue a call for proposals from employers and education and training providers to develop new apprenticeships in areas outside of the current apprenticeship trades and to advise on the implementation of new apprenticeships following that process.

By its nature, the apprenticeship system must continue to be employer-led and a key feature of the revised system will be the strong alignment of education and training provision with the needs of the labour market. 

Speaking at the SOLAS offices where the launch took place, Minister English said “The Irish apprenticeship system has a long and very successful history in providing a well-rounded blend of education and training and workplace experience.  This has ensured that there has been a skilled supply of tradesmen and women to the industries involved in apprenticeship over the years.  Education and training policy must constantly develop to meet new challenges and it is clear that the expansion of the apprenticeship model into new sectors will benefit both employers and the individual apprentices involved”.

With that in mind, membership of the Council has been drawn from Employers, Trade Unions, Government and relevant state agencies, all of whom can bring their wealth of experience to the Council with a view to reforming the apprenticeship system. 

The reform of the apprenticeship system is an integral part of the overall ongoing and significant structural change in the Further Education and Training Sector.  These changes are being put in place so that Ireland has a 21st century high-quality further education and training system to ensure jobseekers and other learners can access employment opportunities in growing sectors of the economy. 

Chairman of the Apprenticeship Council, Pat O’Doherty, also CEO of the ESB, said: As the ESB is a major employer of apprentices, I am well aware that by its nature, the Irish Apprenticeship system is employer-led and constantly driven by economic and technological change. I am glad to be chairing an Apprenticeship Council with a broad range of experise and perspectives, incorporating representatives from business, trade unions, further and higher education bodies and state agencies”.

The inaugural meeting of the Council will take place immediately after today’s launch.