Thursday 19 September 2019

Cost is a major obstacle to creation of new apprenticeship positions, Ibec says

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Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Cost of is a major obstacle to the creation of new apprenticeship positions, according to the employers’ organisation, Ibec.

As many as 17 new types of apprenticeships have been created in non-traditional areas such as financial services, hospitality and insurance.

Many more new offerings are in the pipeline but there is growing concern about the poor uptake of the new ‘earn and learn’ options in some sectors.

This has happened even though the new apprenticeships have generally been devised by industry consortia to address skills needs in companies.

Ibec’s Tony Donohoe told the Oireachtas Education Committee that small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular, had an issue with cost.

Apprenticeships are a blend of work and off the job study and he said there was strong evidence that the cost of paying a salary and subsistence, while the apprentice was off the job, had become a major disincentive.

Mr Donohoe said the traditional craft apprenticeships were supported through subsides from the National Training Fund, and he said that practice should be extended to new generation of apprenticeships.

He gave an example of a newly-recruited apprentices manufacturing engineer, which was costing a company about €90,000.

This is the second day of hearing by the committee into the uptake of apprenticeships.   Last week, it emerged that recruitment to new apprenticeships is a year behind target.

It was hoped that 976 of new-style apprenticeship positions would be filled by the end of 2018, but uptake stands at only 520.

As well as issues on the employers’ side, there is also concern that apprenticeships are not seen as an attractive option in school-leavers in a country where higher education has dominated.

This is despite the fact that school-leavers and others suited to earn-as-you-learn career pathways are paid starting salaries of €18,000-€24,000  while they progress towards a qualification.

Peter Davitt, CEO of FastTrack into Information technology (FIT), the co-ordinating provider for  new apprenticeship routes in software development and network engineering, pointed to good uptake for these opportunities.

He told the committee that,  as a result of the response from employers -  mainly multi-nationals - they had set a goal of 1,000 ICT apprenticeships by 2021, including in new areas such as cybersecurity and digital forensics.

But he said there were aspects of the programme that needed attention, including a national and persistent campaign to promote apprenticeships.

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