The apprenticeship landscape in Ireland is undergoing major transformation and a wide variety of new opportunities are opening up for school-leavers, and others, to pursue a qualification while getting paid at the same time.
Gone are the days when this earn-and-learn approach was limited to craft trades, such as the construction and motor industries, and new apprenticeships coming on-stream are in fields as diverse as auctioneering, insurance, accounting technician, ICT, biopharma lab analyst, hospitality and logistics. Some qualifications are at degree level.
One of the big pluses of this route is that apprenticeships are employer-led, so these roles are being created in areas where there is a demand for staff, which suggests some certainty about future job prospects.
Apprentices are recruited by employers and then work and study - either in an institute of technology or a college of further education run by a local education and training board (ETB) - over a period of up to four years.
In the case of a popular apprenticeship introduced by the insurance industry in recent years, lectures are done online, making it widely accessible. Currently, there are 41 different apprenticeships, including 16 launched in the past couple of years. and more are due on-stream in the coming weeks and months.
Among the new-style apprenticeships is the Level 6 Logistics Associate, which had its first intake last September and is being delivered by the DIT School of Management, Aungier Street.
Last autumn also saw the launch of a two-year, Level 6 programme in auctioneering and property services - a collaboration between City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB) and industry. In the current year, it is running in Ballsbridge College of Further Education and Cork College of Commerce, and apprentices are on salaries of €20,000-€22,000.
There is more information on the apprenticeship.ie website, run by the State training authority, Solas.