Employers group Ibec and school principals are warning about the impact of the pandemic on transition year students who lost out on key learning opportunities and work experience because of Covid-19 restrictions.
The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) said these opportunities will never be replicated as students progress to fifth and sixth year.
Meanwhile, Ibec said the pandemic has robbed employers of the opportunity to fully engage with new entrants to the workforce.
Fourth year secondary school pupils returned to the classroom only last week for the first time since Christmas. In all, these pupils have spent just four of the past 12 months in school when holidays and the pandemic restrictions are considered.
While pupils have been able to participate in remote learning when Covid-19 forced classrooms to shut, many of the activities transition year pupils would expect to participate in — such as work experience, foreign trips or field studies — have been halted completely, NAPD president Michael Cregan said.
“The past 12 months have been hugely challenging for students of all ages across the country. For our transition years, Covid-19 has robbed them of many experiences, including the opportunity to pursue and develop their burgeoning interests and gain insights into the world of work,” he said.
Ibec director of membership and sectors Sharon Higgins said thousands of transition year students missed out on the opportunity to develop practical, personal and social skills, and to gain insights and ideas about the world of work.
“As we move into more uncertain, but also exciting times with the advent of technology, digitalisation and increasing globalisation, it is more important than ever for young people to gain insights and experience into the world of work,” she added.
“Transition year work experience not only enables young people to develop crucial practical, personal and social skills, but affords opportunities for these students to discover what they are passionate about.”
To address the shortfall, Ibec and the NAPD plan to hold a series of talks aimed at giving transition year students an opportunity to learn more about their future career options. The ‘TY Talks 21’ event on May 5 aims to give students a glimpse of pathways open to them and the world of work, in lieu of their missed opportunities.
The event is being supported by Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, Amazon Web Services and a series of business and educational groups.
Mr Cregan said the event will give students a virtual look at the world of work.
“The event blends the educational world with the world of business, and ultimately looks to assist the development of students into their future pathways.
"It is an exciting opportunity to engage with the thousands of transition year students,” he said.