There has been a new and exciting expansion of the apprenticeship sector since 2016. Responding to industry demands, a new series of apprenticeships have been launched and many more are in development.
The long-established apprenticeships, once known as ‘craft apprenticeships’ or ‘trades’ have recovered after taking a beating during the recession. Added to this are a whole new host of apprenticeships within various sectors such as ICT, Finance, and Hospitality.
Apprenticeship offers an alternative route to education. It is a blended approach of on-the-job employment-based training and off-the-job classroom-based learning. Apprentices earn while they learn and develop work ready skills. They are learners of all ages and come from all kinds of educational and employment backgrounds. Apprenticeships lead to qualifications from Level 5 to Level 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications. Successful apprentices receive a QQI qualification which is recognised internationally.
The further education and training centre, SOLAS, is the lead agency responsible for apprenticeship training on behalf of the government. For more information on apprenticeships visit www.apprenticeship.ie
How Apprenticeships differ from Further and Higher Education
Unlike Further Education and Higher Education courses that contain a work experience component, employment is embedded in the apprenticeship model, whereby students are fully fledged employees within an organisation, they have the rights of an employee (although these rights are limited) and are in receipt of a wage.
Applying for an apprenticeship is also a very different process to the application process for courses in Further and Higher Education. Apprenticeship opportunities can crop up at any time of the year and training does not always operate on a traditional academic year running from September to June. Start dates differ between the sectors and unfortunately apprentices do not enjoy the same holidays as students in higher education!
School leavers can move straight into apprenticeships, but the process is more involved than filling out a CAO application and waiting for a place based on your leaving cert results. Many people entering an apprenticeship will already have some work experience and may not be coming straight from school.
In order to get an apprenticeship, applicants need to have a job secured from a SOLAS approved employer. It can be easier to get a job if an applicant has some relevant work experience although it is not a requirement for all apprenticeships. Training as an apprentice is demanding and requires a considerable level of maturity and dedication.
The lifestyle associated with a student in college does not match that of an apprentice. Apprentices have a responsibility to their employer and as an employee they should demonstrate a stable and consistent approach to their work. You will not find Freshers’ Week or Rag Week on the apprenticeship calendar!
It is also worth noting that you may be the only apprentice in your workplace, or one of a small group of apprentices. You will have colleagues in the workplace, but you will most likely be the most junior. However, every year you complete on the apprenticeship programme you become more experienced and your salary increases.
This difference highlights the huge divide between apprenticeships and the college or school experience, unlike college students you will be paid while you work (and in some cases, when you study), but the time commitment will be that of a full-time employee with a requirement also to study for your exams. In the off-the-job classroom element of your apprenticeship you will meet others who are doing the same training as you – only with a different employer.
The origins of apprenticeship dates back hundreds of years so it’s definitely not a new way of learning. In Ireland apprenticeship training was always associated with learning a ‘trade’ or ‘craft.’ These apprenticeships are still in existence and have enjoyed a resurrection after the financial crash of 2008 and are now experiencing a surge in demand.
Training for ‘craft’ apprenticeships is generally made up of seven phases over a period of four years. Three of the phases are ‘off the job’ and four are ‘on-the-job.’ Apprentices are paid throughout their training. Craft apprentices are mainly employed in Construction, Electrical, Engineering and Motor sectors.
Since 2016 new apprenticeships have come on board and many more are in development. These apprentices can be found in the following sectors: Auctioneering and Property Services, Biopharmachem, Finance, Hospitality and Food, ICT, and Logistics.
These new apprentices can lead to awards ranging from Level 5 – 9 on the National Framework of Qualifications. They are between 2-4 years in duration; a minimum of 50 per cent must be on-the-job learning. They are industry led by a consortium of industry and education partners. They offer exciting new and practical ways for students of all ages and backgrounds to train and work towards approved qualifications in their industry.