Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science | Total number of apprentices currently available and plans to introduce new apprenticeship programmes
To ask the Minister for Further and Higher Education; Research; Innovation and Science the total number of apprentices currently available; the extent to which this is sufficient to meet requirements; his plans to introduce new apprenticeship programmes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The ‘Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025’ sets out new ways of structuring, funding, and promoting apprenticeships to make apprenticeship more accessible to employers and learners. Expansion to date has widened the impact of apprenticeship to areas of skills shortage such as engineering, technology skills, logistics, and fintech.
2021 figures showed 8,607 registrations – an increase of 40% on figures for 2019 (the last full pre-Covid year). 2022 saw 8,286 registrations and a population of over 26,000. The strong growth in apprentice registrations is continuing into 2023 with registrations of 1,301 at the end of February which represents an increase of almost 30% on this period in 2022.
The development of new apprenticeship programmes is intended to help deliver on the commitments made under the Programme for Government to support and drive the economy, while addressing the skills requirements identified across society. This is evidenced by the variety of programmes now available, with 66 in total. Of these, 41 have been developed since 2016.
Eight new programmes were launched over 2020 and 2021, despite the pandemic, with a further 4 launched in 2022. An additional 12 programmes across tech, engineering, farming, horticulture, and hospitality are due to be launched this year. A further 12 programmes in areas such as beauty, engineering, and construction are in earlier stages of development.
Apprenticeship programmes are employer-led and the development of new apprenticeships is undertaken in accordance with published criteria and led by apprenticeship consortia comprising of employers, education and training providers and sectoral representatives. Timing and progress on the development of new apprenticeships is therefore generally under the control of the individual apprenticeship consortium and progress through the national qualification quality assurance processes (QQI).
Under the Action Plan, there will be increased online visibility regarding apprenticeship engagement and development processes for employers/sectors who wish to assess the potential for new apprenticeships. Applications for new apprenticeship development are open on an ongoing basis, allowing employers to progress the development of programmes in response to emerging skills needs on an as-needed basis in all sectors of the economy. Such is the dynamic nature of apprenticeship programme development, additional programmes are continually being proposed for assessment by the National Apprenticeship Alliance.
Amendments to the Industrial Training Act, 1967, included in the recently passed Higher Education Authority (HEA) Act 2022, will widen the scope for new apprenticeship programmes even further in an expanded range of sectors.
The increased diversity of new apprenticeships, many of which have off-the-job training delivered through online or blended learning, provides a significant opportunity for widening of access to apprenticeship for rural businesses and learners. In addition, Education and Training Boards, Institutes of Technology, and Technological Universities are spread throughout the country and play a very important role in ensuring apprenticeship provision has a strong regional dimension.
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