Opinion: Apprenticeships should be the toast of the town

Stock image
Stock image
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

I love the bright new toaster I got as a Christmas present, from my sister Rose. (This year we did traditionally practical presents and I got her a dressing gown.)

The toaster is chrome and silver-polished shiny as a car bumper straight out of the 1950s-style movie Grease. It even has a row of slits on both the long surfaces that look like radiator vents.

Exuding brash self-confidence, I have found myself brushing off the few crumbs that dared to linger atop its sleek visage after the completion of a toasting operation.

Its looks are more than matched by performance. We didn't realise quite how bad our old toaster had become until we saw this one in action.

The lever glides down smoothly and catches with a perky click. When done, the toasted slices jump up like the happy-clappy pair from the Happy Pear. Sometimes they even leap clear out!

Robin says you could nearly make yourself believe that the toast actually tastes better.

Our old toaster hadn't actually stopped working, but there was little pleasure left in using it.

It was a two-handed job. After the item to be toasted was placed in the slot, your left hand had to hold the toaster down to prevent the other side heeling up while the lowering lever was scratchily pushed down and engagement made against considerable resistance.

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Then, when the toast was done, rather than a joyous pop, the toaster wearily discharged its load with a dull clunk.

I did feel a twinge of sadness at our parting. For the best part of 10 years, scarcely a day went by when it wasn't used, to create pleasurable breakfast fare for the family.

It did cross my mind to see if I could have got it fixed. However, it wasn't just that it only cost €20 and would probably be cheaper to replace - but who would do it?

A few months ago, our nine-year-old oven stopped working. What was I to do? Fortunately, a friend gave me a name. I rang him.

I will look at it, he said. When? I asked. A few days, he replied. Great, I said, trying to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.

I have often been made this promise by tradesmen and never again heard from them.

But he was as good as his word. Moreover, he fixed the oven on the spot and was in and out of the place in less than an hour.

If this standard of repair service was readily available, I have no doubt that we would not dump as much stuff as we presently do.

We Irish have long recognised the value of education in terms of advancement but we have become snobbish in our view towards trades. I expect that this tradesman, and others who offer a similarly good service, make a very good living.

The entry point to many trades is via the earn-and- learn apprenticeship route and I was interested to see that the Government is set to increase its investment in this sector this year by 24pc, to €122m.

At present, just 2pc of Irish school leavers pursue apprenticeships as a route to work, compared to 60pc in Germany.

A host of new-style apprenticeships in areas such as financial services, animation, horticulture and cybersecurity will join traditional ones in areas such as construction, crafts and trades. They will range in skill from Level 5 (certificate) up to Level 10 (doctorate).

Hopefully, by the time something goes wrong with our new toaster, repairing it will be seen as a realistic option.

Indo Farming

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