John Daly looks at the return to popularity of apprenticeships across a wide range of industries, a welcome addition to the menu of choices available to school leavers
RECENT school-leavers and aspiring college students will discover many exciting new options to choose from as the pace of Irish industry growth signals the need for specific skill sets.
School-leavers and others are now able to consider apprenticeships in many new areas such as: travel industry; hospitality and culinary arts; software Development / information technology; financial services and accountancy; transport distribution and logistics; business administration and management; as well as areas such as manufacturing and engineering.
These are being offered under an expansion of the State training and education scheme, along with the more commonly known traditional apprenticeships, which have also seen a rise in recent years.
“The aim of developing the new apprenticeship scheme was to link in with employers and industry, find out where there was a demand, where there are skills gaps, and where there will be jobs,” states Maria Nugent, careers advisor at Cork Institute of Technology.
“It also provides an attractive alternative to traditional higher education qualifications for many people. The changes to the apprenticeship scheme recognise the changing job market in Ireland, the recovering economy, and a growing need for new apprenticeships in different sectors, not only the more traditional construction industry.”
The 25 new apprenticeships are focussed on a wide range of skills and sectors offering a huge variety of choice.
These new apprenticeships are somewhat different than in the past, with duration ranging from two to four years and will be offered from Level 5 up to Level 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications.
“As with any choice you make for additional learning it is advisable to make sure you are well informed and know what you are getting into. There will still be plenty of study involved (including professional exams) in the apprenticeship scheme, even though it will also offer much more hands on, ‘on the job’ type training,” she adds.
“CIT Careers Service knows that for young people leaving school, having a range of options is absolutely crucial. We have a long history of developing industry links and we work very closely with employers. We feel this offers our students many great opportunities and further prepares them for the world of work when they graduate.
“Working so closely with employers, we can understand there is a need for such apprenticeship positions in industry in order to meet their rising needs and the demand in many areas for the future. It will benefit everyone, employers will have employees specifically trained to their industry, who are familiar with the workplace and have both practical skills and qualifications, and can apply themselves.”
A significant feature of the new apprenticeships is that participants can study to level 7 (ordinary bachelor’s) or level 8 (higher bachelor’s) degree whereas previously the highest qualification was a diploma at level 6.
There is one offering at level 9 (master’s): an apprenticeship as an executive chef through IT Tralee’s school of culinary arts.
According to the Apprenticeship Review Group, learning alternates between a workplace and an educational or training institute, with a minimum of 50% on the job training.
Apprentices will earn while training — an added attraction. It also gives the chance to gain meaningful experience from the beginning and finish with a qualification, ensuring a solid start on the career ladder.
It is expected that 50-100 apprenticeships will be offered in each area, thereby creating as many as 2,500 places a year. The apprenticeship scheme aims to create skilled, competent, workers and offers exciting new opportunities for both young and mature students.
Speaking at the launch of the National Skills Strategy 2025 — Ireland’s Future, Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, said: “This strategy will ensure increased access to high quality and relevant education and training and skills development opportunities. It will allow people to benefit from workplace learning and experience, and to enable effective participation by all in the economy and society.”
CIT Careers Service would advise anyone deciding on their career to do plenty of research, particularly looking at what skills and interests they have. When you better understand yourself and your abilities, choosing courses and careers will be easier, and you will make more informed decisions.
“These apprentice positions will be very popular and competitive, therefore you are advised that you prepare well for the interview, know why you want the position, be able to talk about yourself, dress professionally, speak clearly, make good eye contact and appear enthusiastic,” Maria Nugent advises. “It is important that you present yourself in the best possible light starting with your CV and cover letter, so give it plenty of time, ensure it is done well and that there are no spelling mistakes or errors. Finally, get someone to check over it for you before you apply.”
The apprenticeship system is run by SOLAS, the further education and training authority. To start an apprenticeship the applicant must find a job with an employer who has been approved by SOLAS.
Local employment offices (Intreo) hold useful lists of local employers.
For traditional apprenticeships, applicants can also visit www.apprentices.ie.
For those experiencing doubts about their chosen course or where to take their careers, Maria Nugent advises talking to a Careers Service.
Support is available to students in both second level, further education and third level. There are also Adult Education Guidance Services available nationally and many of them offer a free service to members of the public, http://www.aegai.ie/services/.
These support services are there to assist with gathering information to make an informed decision.
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