30 July, 2015 - Address by Minister for Education and Skills- Announcement of 25 New Apprenticeship Proposals

Good morning ladies and gentlemen, you are all very welcome here this morning for the announcement of the approval of new apprenticeship proposals in new sectors of our economy.

I am particularly glad that we are here in Fallon and Byrne’s, given the culinary flavour of some of the successful proposals that have emerged from the evaluation process undertaken by the Apprenticeship Council.

I want to thank the Apprenticeship Council for all the work they have done to date in bringing us to the point where we are now announcing new apprenticeship proposals. This represents an important milestone in what has been a concentrated effort to improve the options available to those who wished to participate in apprenticeships, whether they be employers or prospective students.

I am well aware that I set the Council a challenging and ambitious timeline for this phase of the process and, like all stakeholders, I am delighted that they have delivered on it.

I wish also to thank all those involved in the various stages of the process that has ultimately led us here this morning.

There is no doubt that while our current apprenticeship model is an excellent product, producing highly skilled craftspeople in demand throughout the world, the reform of the apprenticeship system is very welcome as it goes a long way towards addressing the real need for vibrant apprenticeships in a range of sectors.

Following a detailed evaluation process, the Apprenticeship Council has proposed that the initial phase of development for new apprenticeships should focus on 25 proposals which have been assigned to Category 1 status, having shown that their proposals are both sustainable and are at an advanced stage of design, planning and industry/education collaboration – and therefore ready to enter a detailed development phase.

The 25 proposals in question are focussed on a wide range of skills and industries in sectors as diverse as Manufacturing and Engineering; Tourism and Sport; Financial Services; Information Technology; Transport Distribution and Logistics; as well as Business Administration and Management.

In addition to the 25 proposals in this category, the remaining proposals received will be the subject of further engagement between the Apprenticeship Council and the consortia of employers and education and training providers who took the time and effort to make submissions to the call for new apprenticeships. It is likely that this engagement will result in further expansion of the apprenticeship system in due course.

This development marks the beginning of a significant expansion of the provision of apprenticeship programmes in Ireland.

This ‘earn as you learn’ work-based learning system is world-recognised as a valuable means of developing a sustainable career. Apprenticeship provides the participant with a rounded education - blending the specific skills required by their chosen industry with the wider knowledge gained through the provision of a broader educational fields of study. This wide development of knowledge, combined with the confidence gained through working in a vibrant and supportive workplace throughout their apprenticeship will mean that participants will be well prepared for a career path that can take them in many directions.

Significant reform is already underway throughout the education sector, much of which is focused on closer engagement with employers, jobseekers and learners to ensure that we tailor our education and training programmes to deliver the best work opportunities for all stakeholders in order to develop the sector as a driver of economic growth.

It is clear, given the volume of proposals received that there is a genuine interest from employers in the apprenticeship model in this context. Employers will gain not only from the benefits of taking on committed and ambitious young people, but also from the process of engaging with the education and training system – thus ensuring that the apprentices who complete their chosen programme of work-based study will have the full range of education and skills required by their employers.

The flexibility of the new types of apprenticeship being discussed today will also be attractive to employers and learners alike. They range in duration from 2 to 4 years, and are offered at Levels 5 to 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications. It really is true to say that there is something for everyone in the range of options which have been selected.

I am happy to say that we are progressing very well on our task of identifying what needs to be done in the education and training sector to ensure we meet the current and future skills needs of all our stakeholders, including young people, learners, industry and society.

The reform of the sector is an integral part of the Government’s public service reform agenda and the principal aim of this reform is to have a public service that is responsive to the needs of its users. My Department will continue to play an important part in this reform agenda.

The wide-ranging reforms I am responsible for in the education sector are focused on ensuring that we have the right structures, the right systems and,  fundamental to reform, the right partnerships in place in order to design and implement education and training programmes that meet the needs of all stakeholders.  The process which has led to today’s announcement is an example of this collegiate approach to programme development.

Therefore, in conclusion, I will monitor the progress of the development and implementation of the new apprenticeship programmes with interest. It is my hope that some of the graduates of these new apprenticeships will be working in restaurants like this in the years to come.

I wish all concerned with the new programmes the very best of luck and I have every confidence that the new apprenticeship programmes will meet the current and future skills needs of all stakeholders.