Number of school leavers choosing apprenticeships doubles

The number of school-leavers choosing apprenticeships doubles, as interest in “earn and learn” practices increase.

17,500 people are now participating in apprenticeship programmes, compared to the 8,300 that took part in these programmes in 2015. Since June, the number of people enrolled has increased by 1,500.

A suspected reason for this is this idea of “earn and learn.”

“I did it because you get paid to go to college,” said Colm McGath, who is partaking in the ESB apprenticeship. The ESB take on about 70 apprentices, of 16 years-old and over, every year.

“You get on the job experience and college experience, and it’s based on practical work, which is what I was looking for.”

An apprenticeship consists of on-the-job work where and apprentice will shadow a professional, and off-the-job lectures in an educational institution.

Many Institutes of Technology collaborate with these apprenticeships. The duration of these are 2-4 years and can grant awards of between levels five to 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications.

An apprentice will “earn while they learn and build valuable work-ready skills in a chosen occupation,” according to Apprenticeship.ie.

“At the start, it’s not great money,” said Séamus Ashton, who is currently completing an Electrical Apprenticeship. “And the work is dog, if you get me. [But it] definitely is a benefit anyways.”

The rate of pay is usually “agreed between the employer and the apprentice,” according to the description of most apprenticeships on the Apprenticeship.ie website.

While 5,000 of the new registrations this year were with more “traditional” crafts, 1,000 were with the “newer” or “white collar” crafts such as accounting and real estate. With these newer apprenticeships, learners can earn between €17,000 to €30,000 per year.

There are now also more than 6,000 apprentice employers compared to the 3,500 in 2015.

This new expansion of employers and participants is expected to be supported by €27 million to develop the sector, provided by the government. In June of 2019, the government had also already announced €7.5 million in capital funding to support apprenticeship programmes.

Solas, the state organisation responsible for funding, planning and co-ordinating Further Education and Training, are also planning to launch a further 23 apprenticeship programmes this year.

As well as numbers rising in apprenticeship participants, the number of students in third level has also increased. Between 2016 and 2019, 122,257 additional students enrolled in third level.

Niamh Quinlan

Image Credit: Beibhinn Thorsch