TUI urges revamp to apprenticeship system

A RESTRUCTURED apprenticeship system is urgently needed to ensure thousands of partly-trained tradespeople can finish their qualifications and help the return to economic growth, a teachers’ union has said.

Ahead of next month’s Government jobs initiative, the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) is proposing a change to the current system which has left more than 7,000 people in limbo as their jobs were lost during apprenticeship, particularly those in trades linked to the construction industry.

The union’s members include 4,000 lecturers at institutes of technology (ITs), where part of the apprentice training is delivered, while employers pay a set wage to the trainees.

But the TUI said a new system is needed as employers can no longer afford to take on apprentices.

While it has not priced the proposal, it said prospective craftspeople could instead take on a two-year, full-time study programme at an IT, followed by a system of internship or placement with employers.

While the state would pay an allowance to participants, TUI general secretary Peter MacMenamin said the cost would be partly offset by social welfare payments that might otherwise be payable to them. “Crucially, when the economy improves, there would be no risk of a skills deficit and this would also eliminate the absurd inequity that the current system gives rise to, whereby thousands of apprentices have been made unemployed and are, therefore, unable to complete their apprenticeship,” he said.

The collapse in apprenticeship places linked to the drop in construction work had left a gap in training requirements at some ITs, with the last government considering compulsory redundancies if the TUI’s third-level members did not sign up to reforms in the Croke Park agreement.

The union initially rejected the deal last summer but accepted efficiency measures hammered out with the Department of Education last month, although its third-level members only did so with 56% support.

The role of the ITs will be a key issue at TUI’s annual congress, which begins in Tralee today, and Mr MacMenamin said suggestions that funding for the institutes be linked to student retention targets was foolhardy and anti-educational.

A Higher Education Authority report six months ago showed more than 20% of students who started courses at ITs in 2007 dropped out before second year, more than twice the rate for university students.


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