Blue chip to join blue collar as apprenticeships enter modern era
A new generation of apprentices in Ireland will include workers in the blue-chip financial services sector alongside traditional blue-collar trades.
A raft of new opportunities will start opening up later this year in areas well beyond the construction, aircraft maintenance, printing and motor industries normally associated with the apprenticeship system.
Financial services is just one of the areas that will recruit apprentices for the first time, following a report presented to Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan this week by the Apprenticeship Council.
The variety of apprenticeships will effectively double from 27 to 52. As well as financial services, other new sectors will include information technology and hospitality.
The minister set up the council to oversee the development of new apprenticeships across a wider range of occupations.
The expansion goes hand in hand with a revival in opportunities in traditional areas, reflecting the recovery in the economy.
Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with time in college and there has been demand from employers to broaden the offering to allow companies to meet all their skills needs.
While Ireland is a European leader in terms of the number of young people with degrees, it lags behind in apprenticeships.
The minister is still considering the report but, writing in the Irish Independent, she confirms that 25 new types of apprenticeships will go ahead.
She wants the first of the new apprenticeships to begin enrolling by the end of this year, with others coming on stream next year.
Depending on the apprenticeship, the overall training period will run for between two and fours years. There are separate plans for career traineeships in a number of sectors, also combining work experience and college, for between one and two years.
Economic recovery has seen a pick up in traditional apprenticeships, with more than 3,000 people expected to start one this year. The hope is that, by 2018, it will be up to 5,000 new apprentice registrations a year.
Those figures do not include the apprentice recruitment that will come in the sectors that are being added to the system.
Before the economic crash in 2008, apprenticeship numbers - at all stages of training - hit more than 28,000 a year, but fell to below 6,000 by 2013. Currently, there are about 7,500.
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