Written Answers. - Institutes of Technology.


179 Dr. Upton asked the Minister for Education and Science if he has satisfied himself that the number of apprentice places in third level colleges is adequate to meet demand; if he has further satisfied himself that the demand for apprentice places will be met over the next five years; his views on whether it is necessary to establish a taskforce to evaluate skills shortages for apprentices as was done for information technology skills shortages; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10373/00]

Apprentice numbers have expanded significantly in recent years with the result that the total number of apprentices registered is now over 21,000.

The need for additional capacity in institutes of technology to cater for these increases is being addressed in conjunction with the institutes. A major capital investment programme to provide additional capacity is in train and my Department has provided the Institutes with additional resources to enable them to expand existing programmes where possible. Extra staff have been sanctioned and additional funding is being provided to meet the cost of extra courses. In the two financial years 1998 and 1999 a total of £6 million of additional recurrent funding was provided to fund additional courses. A further £5 million is being provided this year.

As a result of the measures taken to date, the number of apprentices catered for in the edu cational system has increased from just over 4000 in 1997-98 to 7,200 in the current academic year. However, the substantial increase in apprentice numbers over a very short period has led to problems in fully addressing demand.
I am taking steps to increase capacity further with the result that I expect training will be provided for an additional 1,300 apprentices in the next academic year. In addition, my Department is liaising with the institutes of technology to put in place the necessary arrangements to provide training for a minimum of 700 apprentices during the summer.
Apprentice numbers are monitored on a regular basis by FÁS and training capacity is kept under continuing review by FÁS, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and my Department in relation to their respective areas. There is also continuing close liaison between the Departments and training providers in relation to apprenticeship issues. In addition, the National Apprenticeship Advisory Committee, which includes representatives of the social partners, advises the board of FÁS on apprenticeship issues. I trust that the above arrangements meet the Deputy's concerns.