Trade industries bounce back as 1,000 new apprentices taken on
More than 1,000 new apprentices have been taken on so far this year - almost double the number of new starts for the same period in 2013.
The recovering economy is opening doors for new recruitment into training in areas of trade, such as construction, electrical, engineering and motor.
And plans are also advanced for an expansion of the apprenticeship model - a combination of paid work and in-college study - to a raft of new sectors.
Opportunities for traditional apprenticeships collapsed in parallel with the 2008 economic crash, which brought a sudden halt to years of frenzied building activity, while car sales plunged.
At the height of the boom - in each of the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 - there were about 29,000 apprentices in Ireland, at different stages in their training. As the harsh winds of change swept in, the number of apprentices fell to about 23,000 in 2008, and then dive-bombed to 15,000 in 2009.
Such was the speed and severity of the crash that many apprentices lost their job and special arrangements had to be made to enable them to finish their training, if they hadn't already emigrated.
As the recession dragged on, apprentice numbers hit a low of 5,711 in 2013, before starting to climb again in 2014, when there were 6,913 registered.
The growth is gathering pace and, at the most recent count, there were about 7,400, including more than 1,000 new registrations since January, according to latest figures from SOLAS, the State agency for further education and training.
The figure is up 80pc on the 556 starts in January-April 2013, and a 20pc increase from 844 for the same four months last year.
The strength of the recovery is underlined in recent announcements by major companies such as the ESB, Irish Rail, Gas Networks and Nissan Ireland about apprenticeship recruitment programmes over the next few years.
The Office of Public works, whose activities include the protection and conservation of national monuments, has also advertised for apprentices in stonecutting/stonemasonry.
There is a growing recognition that Ireland needs to develop the apprenticeship sector, in the interests both of offering diversity of choice to school-leavers, while also meeting the needs of employers and society.
While Ireland leads the way in Europe for the proportion of young people with third-level qualifications, the statistics mask the lack of options for school-leavers, and others, to pursue which don't have a degree as the goal.
Earlier this year, a newly appointed Apprenticeship Council called on employers, industry organisations and education and training bodies to come up with new apprenticeship ideas.
As many as 86 different proposals have emerged in sectors as diverse as financial services, arts, craft and media, information technology, agriculture, natural resources, sales and marketing, tourism and sport, transport and administration.
These are being evaluated and the council will issue recommendations to Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan by the end of June.