The return of apprenticeships is a really positive development for school-leavers.
Apprenticeships offer a useful "learn and earn" approach to a future career, combining paid, on-the-job training with college study, over a number of years.
Traditionally there were apprenticeships in 27 areas, mainly in the construction and motor trades, but the recession virtually closed off the pipeline.
Economic recovery has seen a significant lift in opportunities this year and they are growing every month. About 3,000 new apprentices are expected to start in 2015, more than double what it was in 2012, and the hope is that it will rise to 5,000 a year by 2018.
On top of a renewal of opportunities in traditional sectors, a review prompted a recent Government decision to add another 25 skills to be recognised through this system. This will help bring Ireland into line with other countries, such as Germany, where there is not the same reliance on a college degree as a route to a fulfilling career.
Although it is possible for apprentices to be recruited at any time of the year, often recruitment takes place in the spring.
The starting point for potential apprentices is to find an employer to sponsor them. Recently, major employers such as the ESB, Gas Networks Ireland, Iarnród Éireann, the Defence Forces and Nissan Ireland have started recruiting. The Office of Public Works has also started a new apprenticeship in stone cutting and stone masonry aimed at the preservation of iconic heritage sites in Ireland, while the construction industry is also in the market.
If students are interested in being trained as an apprentice there are a number of things they can do to ensure they present the best possible application once an opportunity becomes available. A number of further education courses are designed to give future apprentices initial skills. These include:
* Motor technology - Kylemore College and Plunket College, Dublin; Westport College, Mayo; St John's College Cork;
* Furniture making and carpentry - Carlow Institute of Further Education; Cavan Institute; Dun Laoghaire Further Education Institute; Kerry College of Further Education; Coláiste Stíofáin Naofa, Cork; Galway Technical Institute; Sligo College of Further Education; Bray Institute of Further Education, St John's Central College, Cork; Drogheda Institute; Galway Community College.
* Security systems maintenance and instillation - Killester College, Dublin
* Construction - Kerry College of Further Education; Waterford College of Further; Muinebheag Vocational School, Co Carlow; St. Conleth's Community College, Co Kildare.
* DIT offers a two-year Level 6 course in building management, allowing students the opportunity to develop skills that have traditionally been offered through apprenticeships including: bricklaying, plastering, and painting/decorating.
Alongside more opportunities to train in skills such as plumbing, carpentry and motor mechanics, the recently announced expansion of the system will bring sectors as diverse as financial services, information technology, medical devices, insurance, accountancy, logistics, travel industry, sport, business administration, baking and cheffing into the apprenticeships arena.
Some of these sectors are almost ready to start recruiting their new trainees and opportunities will start flowing soon.
For instance, Fastrack to IT (FIT) a training and recruitment initiative in the information technology sector, will be opening opportunities for school-leavers to take up apprenticeships in areas such as computer programming and network engineers.
Websites worth watching for developments in this area include solas.ie and careersportal.ie/news.
Other organisations also offer a viable alternative to the traditional apprenticeships as they contain strong practical focus. For example, Teagasc has a range of educational opportunities in the area of horticulture and agriculture while RACE provides training for potential jockeys, stable hands and farriers.