'We must promote apprenticeships as much as we do degrees': industry boss
One of Ireland's most successful businessmen says apprenticeships need to be seen in a different light by students and teachers, and not as a "fall-back option" to the CAO.
Martin McVicar, co-founder and managing director of the world-leading Co Monaghan company Combilift, says the perception around apprenticeships needs to change.
Mr McVicar was speaking at the launch of the first Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM) apprenticeship in Ireland, a three-year 'earn-and-learn' programme starting in March.
Combilift, which manufactures forklifts, has 600 employees and a turnover of more than €235m a year, exporting 98pc of its output to 85 countries. The company is one of a number of major equipment manufacturers heading up the apprenticeship initiative.
This year, the employers involved are offering 24 apprenticeship positions, but it will grow in future years and about 30 companies are now interested in embracing it.
It is aimed at school leavers who have completed their Leaving Certificate, or mature applicants.
The apprenticeship, which is backed by Enterprise Ireland, is designed to fill the skills gap faced by Irish equipment manufacturers.
It was launched yesterday by Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys and Education Minister Joe McHugh.
"It is time that we promote the apprenticeship route with the same enthusiasm which we do for degrees," Mr McVicar said.
There are many options for those with 400-plus Leaving Cert points, he said, but added "this apprenticeship also offers a rewarding and challenging career path from the day the apprentice starts".
"When employers are hiring, they don't advertise for someone with knowledge, they specifically state that they are seeking someone with skills and this apprenticeship combines knowledge, skills and industry experience.
"The brightest and best of our students should be encouraged to consider this option. Career advice and decisions that are driven by school league tables are not serving our children or our country well. The pressure to get a third-level degree with the hope of a good job at the end is not always beneficial."