Apprenticeships: From school to €18,000-a-year accountancy career
Katherine Donnelly on the new doors opening for school-leavers
The modern era of apprenticeships includes white collar jobs as well as traditional trades, and, as the Leaving Cert results are announced, comes confirmation of a much anticipated pathway to a career in accounting and finance.
School-leavers can apply for 120 new 'earn as you learn' positions, being created by Ireland's first ever national accounting technician apprenticeship. Far from having to pay college fees, there will be starting salaries of at least €17,797 a year. The costs are fully funded by Solas, the further education and training authority.
To be eligible to apply, this year's school-leavers will need 310 points from their Leaving Cert, including a minimum 05 in English and maths or accounting, (300 points and ordinary level D3 in English and maths or accounting for 2016, and previous, Leaving Certs)
The jobs will be on offer in major accountancy firms such as Grant Thornton and BDO, smaller high street practices as well as organisations in industry and the public sector. They're ideal for those who prefer a more practical approach to building knowledge and skills.
The apprentices will work in the office four days a week and study in a local college one day a week during the two-year programme, which begins on September 4.
At the end of two years, successful participants will have a Level 6 Advanced Certificate qualification, following which they may progress further up the accountant qualifications and career ladder.
According to Accounting Technicians Ireland (ATI), there is an 11pc increase in demand, year-on-year, for accounting technicians across all sectors, which offers some certainty about future job prospects.
In this, the inaugural year, the programme is running in partnership with Bray Institute of Further Education, Co Wicklow; Blackrock Further Education Institute, Coláiste Íde College of Further Education, Rathmines College of Further Education, all Dublin; Cork College of Commerce; and Monaghan Institute.
There are plans to roll out the programme in other counties in future years and the aim is to create 800 jobs by 2021.
This programme provides a real alternative for Leaving Cert students - and others, who prefer practical training to a full-time college programme.
Anyone interested is invited to log on to accountingtechnicianapprenticeship.ie or contact akennedy@accounting techniciansireland.ie.
Education Minister Richard Bruton is encouraging school-leavers to consider this as a "solid option towards a career in accountancy and finance".
Sectors where apprenticeships have been introduced in the past year include the insurance industry, the financial services sector, the medical devices and polymer processing industries and hospitality (commis chefs).
As well as apprenticeships there are also more traineeships involving a similar 'earn as you learn' model, generally completed over one or two years, coming onstream.
One very successful one, in engineering, is a partnership between Cavan and Monaghan Education and Training Board (CMETB) and a local firm, Combilift, a global leader in forklift manufacturing.
Classes take place in Monaghan Institute and work-based learning, in blocks of two three-week periods, is done at Combilift. It leads to a nationally recognised, Level 5 OEM in Engineering qualification.
This is its third year and those who completed the traineeship in 2017 have been offered full-time employment with the company, which has more than 300 employees and has a new €40m state-of-the-art manufacturing facility due to open next year.
There is a limited number of places on the programme starting in September and it runs until May. Among its attractions are that there are no college fees to pay as the trainees receive an allowance from Combilift or the ETB through the Department of Social Protection.
With Combilift expecting to double production over the next five years, the long-term job prospects are every good.
The company's managing director, Martin McVicar says the trend of offering employment to qualified trainees is set to continue.
After receiving their Level 5 qualification, participants in the programme can continue their studies on a part-time basis and upskill further.