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Apprenticeship Programmes

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 27 July 2021

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Ceisteanna (1245, 1281)

Rose Conway-Walsh

Ceist:

1245. Deputy Rose Conway-Walsh asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science if he will consider removing the requirement to complete 12 weeks of on-the-job training following the completion of phase six of an apprenticeship for the apprentices who have faced substantial delays due to waiting lists for off-the-job training; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39251/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Niamh Smyth

Ceist:

1281. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science the number of apprentices who are still awaiting their course training; the size of the backlog; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40351/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Further and Higher Education)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1245 and 1281 together.

Craft apprenticeships account for 25 of the 61 existing available apprenticeship programmes. The off-the-job training for these programmes is delivered in Training Centres or Institutes of Technology and Technological Universities. It is these programmes which were those most impacted by the shutdown of on-site learning activity in 2020 and 2021 given the practical nature of the apprenticeships; training centres and workshops having been closed for 9 of the past 14 months. End of June figures indicated that over 11,000 apprentices were waiting for access to Phase 2, 4 and 6 off-the-job training.

Craft apprentices were prioritised for a return to on-site learning on 8 March 2021. Delivery of off-the-job phases is proceeding, and will continue over the summer, subject to public health advice and with restricted numbers. This approach will assist institutions and providers in preparing and organising the safe return of larger numbers in the autumn.

The Government has committed to a significant increase in onsite attendance in the tertiary education sector in the next academic year. Following consultation with sectoral stakeholders and following Government approval, I published A Safe Return: Plan for a safe return to on-site Further and Higher Education and Research in 2021/22.

The Plan reflects the essential nature of higher and further education and training including apprenticeships. It provides for comprehensive on-site activity for the next academic year, with almost full scale on-site activities.

To support the Plan, the sector has developed a Pact of actions and commitments to ensure that the return is safe. With specific reference to the issue of backlogs, under this Pact, institutions and providers have committed to addressing backlogs and deferred learning outcomes. Similarly, stakeholder bodies have committed to engaging with institutions and providers to achieve significant increases to on-site teaching, learning, assessment and research, to progress mitigating actions and to address backlogs.

A three-step plan to tackle the backlog in craft apprenticeship off-the-job training over the next 12 to 15 months is currently being worked on between SOLAS and further and higher education providers. Step 1 of the plan includes an increase in the number of training workshops available across further and higher education from September 2021 onwards. Steps 2 and 3 involve tailored emergency approaches to accelerate the throughput of apprentices. All options are being explored including a competency-based assessment to help fast-track those waiting longest for phases 4 and 6.

I have provided €20 million in additional capital expenditure to SOLAS and the HEA to facilitate an additional 4,000 craft apprenticeship places across the system in the coming period and into the future. This is in addition to €12 million which had already been allocated to support additional classes and teaching capacity to ameliorate COVID-19 measures.

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