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Apprenticeships crucial to meeting climate and digital challenges

Training, upskilling and reskilling will be fundamental to Government’s response to impact of COVID-19 on the labour market, meeting our carbon neutrality target and the challenges posed by digitisation.  Apprenticeships and traineeships will be a crucial part of the response.

We welcome the publication of the Action Plan for Apprenticeship 2021-2025[1].  The plan notes that the apprenticeship system will be a keep part of an agile skills development system which must meet generational challenges such as climate action, digitisation, regional development and demographic change need powerful responses across education and training and in workplaces. 

We welcome the commitment to regularly upskill and reskill existing workers, this must form a key component of our skills strategy in the coming years.  Also welcome is the commitment to deliver increased high quality apprenticeship opportunities in the public sector and  the commitment to assess the potential to include apprenticeship within the general tertiary education equity of access provisions, reflecting the greater integration of apprenticeship provision across further and higher education. 

The plan itself contains five high level objectives.  The aim of objective 3 is that the profile of the apprenticeship population will more closely reflect the profile of the general population.  Learnings from existing access programmes and policies will be used to increase the uptake of apprenticeships from those from disadvantaged backgrounds and other specific target groups.  We very much welcome the focus on increased participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

One area which is not addressed specifically in the plan is how to expand the age profile of those who take up apprenticeships and traineeships.  Expanding the age profile of will be crucial if this plan is to deliver on upskilling and reskilling those existing workers, and delivering on the stated ambition around the role the apprenticeships will have to play in supporting our post-pandemic recovery, climate change, digitisation and delivering on programme for government commitments. 

The age profile of apprentices in Ireland is young compared to other countries and is predominantly taken up by those of an age when second level education is completed. In 2018, 45 per cent were under 19 and 40 per cent aged 20 to 24 years. Just 10 per cent were aged 25-29 and only 5 per cent aged 30 or over.   By comparison in England 21 per cent of the apprenticeship population is over 35[2].  The age profile of those engaging in apprenticeships and traineeships requires closer scrutiny as this is an area that has the potential to address many of the challenges a digital transformation will bring.  Apprenticeships and traineeships will form an integral part of an education and training system that can support adults throughout their lives as they acquire skills and navigate the transitions that will occur as a result of the green and digital transformations of the economy. 

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