New apprenticeships are opening up
Apprenticeships are becoming a real option for school-leavers, offering a much wider variety of roles and higher qualification levels than was traditionally the case.
Significant developments in the apprenticeship area mean that anyone taking this route can aspire to the same level of qualification as someone on a CAO course.
The gradual recovery in the economy has seen a return of such opportunities in traditional trades, such as construction, and with it, for the first time, the possibility of progress up the qualifications ladder to an honours degree, and beyond.
Another big change is the roll-out of the model in "white collar" sectors, such as insurance and financial services, to train staff from the ground up, including to the most senior positions.
An apprenticeship is a combination of paid work experience and college-based learning, generally over a four-year period. A similar model, but for a shorter duration, is a traineeship and some sectors, such as IT, are using the title 'associate professional' for this 'earn and learn' approach.
The new opportunities are starting to emerge and worthwhile points of contact include:
Q apprentices.ie - a Construction Industry Federation (CIF) one-stop-shop for building industry apprenticeships, where potential apprentices register an interest and where employers post vacancies;
Q The Insurance Institute's website: iii.ie/apprenticeships;
Q Solas.ie - website of the State training and further education agency;
Q local education and training boards (ETBs), which are developing partnerships with local employers.
CIF has also announced a "shared apprenticeship" pilot scheme for the south east, where apprentices in "wet trades", such as plastering and concrete work, will spend time with four companies, rather than one. The companies are Clancy Construction, Cleary Doyle, Mythen Construction and Anthony Neville Homes.
The first example of progression up the qualifications ladder for construction industry apprentices is a new Level 7 (ordinary degree) Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng) in Industrial Electrical Engineering at Limerick Institute of Technology, which is open to qualified electricians.
Meanwhile, in the manufacturing industry, the pharmaceutical multi-national, GSK, which already has apprenticeships in engineering, is now offering a similar route for pharmaceutical technicians, a three-year programme leading towards a foundation degree in Applied Chemical Science Technology
Cavan Monaghan Education and Training Board (CMETB) provides a good example of local partnerships, including a link with Monaghan engineering firm, Combilift, for 25 traineeships, which they are developing into apprenticeships.