Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education and Skills Thomas Byrne TD has criticised Minister Richard Bruton for his approach to dealing with reform of the apprenticeship system. Deputy Byrne pointed out that Minister Bruton is more interested in re-launching previous plans rather than actually driving through the necessary reforms.

Deputy Byrne commented, “There is little substance behind this latest plan launched by Minister Bruton. The Minister has simply repeated the commitment made in the Programme for Government to “double the number of apprenticeships to provide a total of 31,000 places by 2020”. This is an ambitious target but we have been given no details on how the Minister intends on achieving this. In fact, there wasn’t even an accompanying document issued with today’s announcement.

“Ireland has the fifth highest share of young people aged 15 – 29 who are categorised as being ‘not in employment, education or training’. The figure stands at 19.1%, according to Eurostat. This equates to over 100,000 individuals which is far above the number of people participating in programmes such as Spring Board. This high rate, coupled with the unmoving long-term unemployed rate among young people, is fast becoming one of Ireland’s largest social and economic problems.

“There has to be a renewed focus on vocational training to reduce the number of young people who are not in employment, education or training. However we need more than just ambitions and targets to achieve this. The Government needs to actually set out what policies it intends implementing to reform our system of vocational training to make it more attractive for young people.

“It’s vital that the State invests and incentivises apprenticeships with the view to creating a structured and qualification based pathway for young people looking to enter the workforce. There must be an alternative to the traditional route of higher education.

“It’s clear that apprenticeships are currently limited to a narrow set of occupations, while workplace training is not used sufficiently in vocational education and training programmes. It’s vital that the apprenticeship options are matched with job market demand – something which the previous Fine Gael led Government failed to do.

“The current apprenticeship schemes on offer are far too limited in scope. There isn’t a sufficient range of occupations available which has led to huge gaps in the system. This is a need to broaden apprenticeship programmes with the view to creating additional places on schemes. Regular industry reviews will be needed to keep this system on track,” concluded Deputy Byrne.