Labour Is Committed To Enhanced and Expanded Apprenticeship System

The Government is fully committed to renewing and significantly expanding the apprenticeship system in Ireland – that was my message to the gathering today at ESB Networks Training Centre of Excellence in Portlaoise where the ESB announced plans to recruit 300 new apprentices in the coming years.

ESB has been training apprentices and staff in its dedicated facility in Portlaoise for 45 years, The 300 apprenticeships announced today are a continuation of that tradition but also mark the start of quality careers in the Energy sector for many young people.

I believe companies such as ESB clearly demonstrate the value that apprenticeships deliver to our economic and social recovery. Apprenticeships are an investment in the future and they are one of the most important investments a company can make. Having a skilled, motivated workforce is increasingly important in a global competitive economy and the apprenticeship model provides that. Not only do apprentices learn the skills necessary to be part of innovative company, they also develop a loyalty to the company and an appreciation of its contribution to the wider society. Many of us only get an insight into that esprit de corps when crews work in all types of weathers to restore electricity supplies, but the foundation for that dedication and commitment begins in places like the ESB Networks Centre of Excellence and the whole country benefits from it.

Speaking at the event An Tanaiste Joan Burton said, “The announcement today by ESB is very positive news. It is a win-win for the company and future employees. These apprenticeships will ensure that ESB has the skilled staff necessary to fulfil the crucial role it plays in Ireland’s economy and society. For the apprentices they are guaranteed high-quality training, good pay and conditions and the opportunity to contribute to one of Ireland’s most valued and innovative semi-state companies.

“The Government is currently involved in a radical renewal of the apprenticeship model. For too long apprenticeships have been undervalued. The fact that Ireland has a world beating reputation for its young skilled apprentices hardly merits a mention in many quarters. That needs to change.

“As a Government we want to see an expanded and enhanced role for the apprenticeship model. This will have two main strategies – firstly reviewing the apprenticeships currently available to ensure that they measure up to the rapidly evolving 21st century workplace and secondly exploring with industry and other stakeholders the sectors that would benefit from the apprenticeship model and launching new apprenticeships in those areas. This work is already underway and will be a key feature of Government employment policy in 2015 and beyond,” stated Minister Burton.

Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, said, “Recent years have seen a very positive growth in the numbers of registered apprentices. SOLAS are projecting nearly 3000 new apprentices this year, more than double the rate seen in 2012. This is a welcome development and I am glad to announce today that my Department will spend an additional €10m in 2015 to ensure that our current apprentices get the most up-to-date training in their specialist areas. By the summer, I am also looking forward to receiving the report of the recently established Apprenticeship Council, chaired by Pat O’Doherty. This report will pave the way for new types of apprenticeships to be developed by the end of the year.”