Apprentice system is in need of 'urgent expansion'
THE apprenticeship system should be expanded into new business and industrial sectors, according to an expert group.
Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, who published the findings of the review group into the system, also said that he wants to see a "proper gender balance in apprenticeships".
Mr Quinn said: "Previously, the focus on apprenticeships has been in areas like construction that is predominantly seen as a male route into the workforce. It's time for that to change."
Among the key recommendations of the independent review group were that an apprenticeship council should be established, hosted by Solas
Employers should pay apprentices in the new areas for both on and off-the-job periods.
With regard to existing apprenticeships, the review group recommended that programmes should be continued and adapted over time.
The group, chaired by Labour Court chairman Kevin Duffy, said the curriculum for trades should be examined and updated as a matter of urgency.
And skills such as literacy, numeracy, maths, science and information and communications technology should be integrated into courses, the group recommended.
IBEC's head of education policy Tony Donohoe said change was "urgently required".
He added: "The current system is too rigid, it covers too few occupations and it has not adapted to changing economic and technological developments.
"The new proposals have the potential to quickly create new apprenticeships, respond to emerging needs and channel resources and participants towards business sectors that are growing.
"To get more companies involved, it is vital that the new apprenticeship system is properly resourced and not too bureaucratic."
The group's report said that apprentice pay in Ireland was high compared with most countries, with the exception of Australia, Denmark and Sweden.
But following the collapse in the construction sector, recruitment into apprenticeships is now at 20pc of what it was at its peak, although there is recent evidence of recovery, with intake increasing by 10pc in 2012, and an 18pc estimated increase last year.
The Department of Education will work with various agencies including Solas, trade unions and education providers to examine how the proposals can be put into practice.