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Apprenticeship Programmes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 19 January 2022

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Questions (1159)

Richard O'Donoghue

Question:

1159. Deputy Richard O'Donoghue asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science when construction apprentices can expect to complete their apprenticeships (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1149/22]

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Written answers (Question to Further and Higher Education)

SOLAS, the HEA and education and training providers are continuing to work to ensure that craft apprentices are facilitated to complete their apprenticeship in as rapid a manner as is possible.

The COVID-related delays in off-the-job training places for craft apprentices is being addressed, underpinned by a Government investment of €37 million (€20M capital investment in 2021 supported by a €17M allocation in Budget 2022).

There were 8,797 apprentices waiting for assignment to off-the-job training at the end of December 2021, down from 12,000 in August 2021. When assigning places, those who have been waiting the longest are being prioritised.

In addition to investment in increased capacity across providers of craft apprentice off-the-job training, a number of reform measures have been agreed and are being implemented to help clear the backlogs. These include changed delivery structures for Phase 2 off-the-job training which is facilitating a third intake of apprentices per annum and an opt-in rapid employer assessment which is being piloted at Phase 7 (on-the-job) for apprentices who have completed Phase 6 and spent more than four years in their apprenticeship.

Further measures are being explored within the context of ensuring that all learning outcomes and quality assurance procedures remain in place to ensure that the integrity of the end qualification is maintained.

Subject to continued access to workshops and training facilities in addition to the rollout of additional places, it is expected that the majority of craft apprentices waiting for off-the-job training for phases 4 and 6 will be cleared by Easter 2022, with the phase 2 backlog cleared by year-end 2022.

The State pays training allowances directly to apprentices in the 25 craft apprenticeships while they are attending Phases 2, 4 and 6 off-the-job training. These allowances are appropriate to the training phase, are paid by the ETBs through the Department of Education’s Shared Business Services and are funded through the NTF.

Accommodation or travel allowances are also payable. Where there has been a delay in placement due to a lack of available training places, apprentices may be entitled to payment of one phase rate higher.

Any shortfall in the take-home pay of an apprentice on a training allowance while attending a Phase 2, Phase 4 or Phase 6 arising from the payment by an employer of more than the gross-wage norm for the industry sector concerned, is a matter solely for the employer and the apprentice.

Apprentices are primarily employees and as such eligible apprentices are also entitled to access general employment supports such as the Working Family Payment and other relevant schemes.

Regarding class sizes since September 2021 classes have been scheduled at full capacity (14-16 per class) whereas prior to this they have been scheduled on the basis of 7-8 per class to comply with prevailing public health advice. Due to the highly practical nature of craft apprenticeship training and the facilities needed for this, it is not possible to have class sizes equivalent to theory-based courses.

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