Fianna Fáil General Election candidate for Galway West John Connolly says his party will prioritise education in its manifesto and will invest in apprenticeships if in Government.  The Galway West candidate confirmed the commitment to increase the number of apprenticeships available following the launch of the Fianna Fáil Manifesto on Thursday.

Mr Connolly explained, “This Government has a terrible record on education.  In 2011 Labour signed a pledge to cap fees at €1,500, but after getting into power, they increased them to €3,000.  Both parties presided over a 30% fall in apprenticeships and have pursued a policy of focusing on high skills, tech-led sectors.

“This massive drop in apprenticeship places has led to huge gaps in important sectors and highlights Fine Gael and Labour’s failure to understand the key role that apprenticeships play. Apprentices learn practical skills and can hit the ground running once they enter the workplace – an important consideration for many employers.

“This Government’s short-sighted approach has led to serious staff shortages in certain sectors.  Here in Galway we are experiencing major problems in the hospitality industry because hotels and restaurants cannot find chefs. The Restaurants Association estimates that at least 5,500 extra chefs are needed to cater for demand.

“It is vital that apprenticeship options are matched with job market demand – something which this Government has failed to do.  The current apprenticeship schemes on offer are limited to a narrow range of occupations, which has led to huge gaps in the system.  Fianna Fáil will broaden apprenticeship programmes and create additional places on schemes, which will be informed and shaped by regular industry reviews”.