A new apprenticeship scheme, aimed at up to 10,000 new positions per year by 2025, will mark a "culture change" around further education, Simon Harris has said.
The Further Education Minister today launched a five-year overhaul of the system and said that there would have to be a change around how apprenticeships are viewed.
The plan, which aims to deliver 10,000 new apprenticeships per year by 2025, also aims to create a new National Apprenticeship Office to bring craft and non-craft apprenticeships under one umbrella.
It will also introduce a new grant for employers with a top-up grant for areas of identified national skills needs of around €3,000.
Mr Harris said that he also hoped to target underrepresented groups such as female apprentices, or lone-parents, people with disabilities, or members of the Travelling community. A bursary will also be offered to around 100 apprentices a year.
Mr Harris said that the public perception around apprenticeships would have to be challenged to encourage greater take-up of schemes.
“The overall apprentice population will grow to over 30,000 registered apprentices in the next five years. In particular, we want to ensure that there is equal access for everyone to apprenticeships, irrespective of their background, gender or age.
“This plan has the potential to transform this part of our third level system. Apprenticeship is good for the learner and the employer.”
Mr Harris said that he was calling on the public sector, which takes on around 100 apprenticeships, to "step up" and said that it was no longer possible to "ask business to do more".
The minister added that it is now "more likely than not" that the next academic year will see "far more on-campus education".
He said that this was caveated by the public health advice and would require investment, vaccinations and rapid testing.
He said that it was not feasible in the long-term to keep students from campuses.