I propose to take Questions Nos. 1142 to 1144, inclusive, 1160, 1168, 1171 and 1173 together.
The most recent figures for the total estimated annual cost per apprentice are from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Spending Review of Apprenticeships which was published in 2019. The figure for craft apprenticeship is €7,159 with an average cost of €9,877 per apprentice for those apprenticeships established since 2016. These figures exclude cost of the Apprenticeship Incentivisation Scheme.
The higher figure includes the development costs for programmes introduced since 2016 and may, therefore overstate the ongoing costs of the programmes. Given the substantial development activity in the post-2016 programmes it is too early at this point to determine a reliable average cost.
Consortia are funded differently whether the apprenticeship is to be delivered in further or higher education institutions. For programmes delivered in higher education institutions, the HEA provide up to €50,000 development funding to assist with the roll out and development of a new apprenticeship. Funding is then on a unit cost model in line with other arrangements currently in place across the higher education system with total funding capped at €125,000 per annum. Three of the 50 post-2016 apprenticeships available/in development are at level 5 of the NFQ and funded directly by SOLAS. SOLAS funded programmes receive weighted payments based on the overall number of apprentices registered by a consortium. Payments are in three equal tranches during programme setup with a payment of up to 25,000 added in year 1.
The estimated cost of introducing a new apprenticeship programme will vary significantly depending on the nature of the apprenticeship being introduced. Development costs can range from €12,500 in the case of the ICT Network Engineer programme to €135,000 for the Polymer Process Engineer programme. Of 21 apprenticeship programmes for which development costs were approved between 2016 and 2020 the average development cost approved was approximately €50,000, not including any additional equipment costs.
In relation to the estimated cost per apprentice – 45% of the average cost of a craft apprentices is due to allowance payments, with 36% of the cost of a consortia-led programme absorbed by consortia costs (including setup).
The cost to the state for off-the-job training excluding allowances is dependent on the level, duration and location of that off-the-job training. As set out above, funding for consortia-led programmes is allocated on a sliding scale dependent on the number of apprentices registered to the programme.
Existing backlogs in accessing off-the-job training relate to a number of the craft apprenticeship programmes. The process of clearing the backlogs and waiting lists for off the job training is currently on-going and an assessment of the full costs has yet to be finalised. The following measures have been taken to ameliorate the ongoing impacts of the Covid-19 measures on craft apprentices and to move to reduce waiting times for off-the-job training for certain craft apprenticeships:-
- Additional trainer posts have been sanctioned on a temporary basis where ETBs have identified a need for additional staff to deliver off-the-job training within Covid-19 guidelines.
- €12m has been provided in Budget 2021 to support additional places which will mitigate against the effect of smaller apprenticeship class sizes and catch up on lost provision in spring and summer 2020.
- I have recently approved €20m capital funding for SOLAS and the HEA to facilitate an increased level of provision.
- The HEA and SOLAS are also engaging further in relation to the curricula to see what parts can be delivered online and are working with the sector to see which elements of craft apprenticeship might be amenable to blended learning.