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Brick by brick: rise in number of apprentices a sign of recovery

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Joseph Kelly from Kilnaboy Co. Clare, winner of the World Skills Competition, with Paul O' Toole, chief executive SOLAS and Minister for Education and Skills Jan O' Sullivan.

Joseph Kelly from Kilnaboy Co. Clare, winner of the World Skills Competition, with Paul O' Toole, chief executive SOLAS and Minister for Education and Skills Jan O' Sullivan.

Colm Mahady / Fennells

Joan Burton

Joan Burton

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Joseph Kelly from Kilnaboy Co. Clare, winner of the World Skills Competition, with Paul O' Toole, chief executive SOLAS and Minister for Education and Skills Jan O' Sullivan.

THERE has been a big bounce back in apprenticeships, with a 47pc increase in registrations compared with this time last year.

Although the rise is coming from a very low base, the take-up in apprenticeships is another sign of recovery in the economy.

The apprenticeship system virtually collapsed during the recession because of lack of demand for traditional trades, such as in the building industry.

Key construction trades of bricklaying, carpentry, plastering, plumbing and stonemasonry, are among those experiencing the biggest surge in new apprentice registrations.

In many cases, the number of apprentices is ahead of the forecasts for the year reflecting the quicker-than-expected pace of recovery.

Overall, new apprentice registrations are up from 1,477 in October 2013 to 2,154 last month. The October 2012 figure was 1,182.

In the construction trades, the year-on-year increase was 69pc, from 267 to 451. The October 2012 figure was 175.

The electrical trades, including refrigeration and air conditioning, have seen an 67pc rise in new registrations since October 2013.

Engineering, such as sheet metalworking, and the motor trade have also experienced a rise in new registrations, of 16pc and 27pc respectively, although the print trades are down 50pc, from six new registrations in October 2013 to three last month.

New registrations are expected to grow further next year, following a major review and the launch, yesterday at offices of the State training authority, SOLAS, of a new Apprenticeship Council, to oversee the expansion of apprenticeships into new sectors of the economy.

Tony Donohoe, head of Education and Social Policy with the employers' organisation, Ibec, said the current apprenticeship system, which is limited to 26 occupations, did not reflect the broad skill needs of the Irish economy and the new model had the potential to boost skill levels across the economy and help get people into quality, sustainable jobs.

The first job of the council will be to issue a call for proposals from industry for new apprenticeships, which is due to take place before the end of the year.

Among the recommendations of the Apprenticeship Review Group was that apprenticeships could lead to qualifications from Level 5 - the equivalent of the post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course - to a Level 10, doctorate.

In a further encouraging education development, Trinity College Dublin yesterday launched a new mentoring programme for more than 1,200 second-level students in 11 Dublin schools in areas of disadvantage.

The initiative, known as Trinity Access 21, aims to support the development of a college-going culture in schools with lower than average higher education progression rates. Tanaiste Joan Burton inset, launched the programme, which will connect the 1,200 students with 320 volunteer mentors drawn from the long-standing Trinity Access Programme (TAP) alumni and supporters network, over a three-year period.

The programme is adapted from a model developed by a US educational non-profit College for Every Student (CFES), which has had a partnership with Trinity's TAP since 2011. It has been successfully piloted in St Joseph's Secondary School, Rush, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent