How we teach our children: Ireland aims to build on strong tradition of apprenticeships

Ireland, along with Germany and the UK, is embracing a major expansion of its apprenticeship system. And there are myriad routes to choose, writes Noel Daly

Apprenticeship is defined as a programme of structured education and training, which alternates learning in the workplace with learning in an education centre.

The national apprenticeship system is governed by legislation which sets out the overall structure of the national system, and all important protections including the responsibilities of apprentices, employers, and training providers.

Like many other countries, especially Germany and UK, Ireland is embracing a major expansion of its apprenticeship system. The initiative, steered by the National Apprenticeship Council, hopes to build on the strong tradition of apprenticeships in Ireland since the 1970s.

As mentioned, for some European countries, the apprenticeship model forms a significant element of their education system.

For many years in Germany, students in programmes such as engineering and business information systems have had the opportunity of studying in colleges closely aligned to industry. These students will rotate between lectures and the work environment on a regular basis for the duration of their courses.

This system has led to a pipeline of students graduating with both knowledge and skills that make them highly employable in their chosen fields.

Here in Ireland, partnership will be a key feature in the successful develop- ment and expansion of our national apprenticeship system. The main feature of apprenticeships is that they are industry-led with companies and firms working with our higher or further-education institutions.

An apprenticeship will be between two and four years in duration, with a minimum 50% of on-the-job learning complemented with flexible delivery online, blended, off-the-job learning in increments/blocks.

They will lead to award at Levels 5 to 10 on the National Framework of Qualifications. This means that an apprentice can be awarded a master’s qualification approved by QQI.

Organisations and industry groups are being encouraged to come together to help identify areas which are in need of an apprenticeship proposal.

While the perception out there is that apprenticeships are for the blue-collar roles, this is not true.

An expansion of the apprenticeship model into white-collar professions could be highly desirable. Apprenticeship-type arrangements have existed for many years for some professions.

For example, over the years, students taking professional accountancy exams are engaged in an apprenticeship-style model, where they train as accountants in offices around the country while simultaneously studying for and completing the necessary professional accountancy qualifications (for example CPA, ACCA, ICAI, CIMA).

Indeed, at Griffith College we have been involved in the provision of these accountancy programmes for over 40 years.

Currently, there are a number of apprenticeships in development across a diverse range of industries. Retail practice and executive chef are in the pipeline.

This is an excellent opportunity for those in industry organisations, and local firms to think about how an apprenticeship could help their business. For such businesses, it is an opportunity to create a pipeline of graduates with the necessary skills to be “job ready” when they qualify from these apprenticeship programmes.

From the graduates’ view-point, they will acquire up-to-the-minute training and skills which will greatly enhance their attractiveness to potential employers.

The current call from the Apprenticeship Council closes on September 1 and if there are any groups interested in looking at possible areas that could be designated as apprenticeships, we here at Griffith College Cork would be interested in guiding as an education provider.

If your organisation or industry body would like further details on how to develop an apprenticeship there is an excellent handbook available at apprenticeship.ie.

We have our own unit at Griffith College Dublin, Cork, and Limerick, which is now also available to advise on the quality assurance guidelines.

Noel Daly is deputy head of campus at Griffith College Cork

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