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How Apprenticeships Can Work for Small Business
A lack of investment in apprenticeships has led to a decrease in their availability and uptake in Ireland over the past few years. However, Ireland’s National Skills Strategy 2025 looks set to change that, writes Elisha Collier O'Brien from Chambers Ireland.
Apprenticeships are commonly perceived of as being only related to certain trades such as mechanics and builders. However, this simply reflects the limited options which have been on offer in Ireland and is not an accurate reflection of the broad range of areas for which apprenticeships can offer practical and high-level education. At a macro level, the skills gaps, high education dropout rates and high youth unemployment figures all indicate that an increased focus on apprenticeships in Ireland is the right way to go.
Earlier this year the Government launched Ireland’s National Skills Strategy (NSS) 2025, which is set to increase the number and scope of apprenticeships on offer. One of the aims of the NSS is a reform of the apprenticeship system, with a view to expanding participation and industry input. This is a welcome move for Ireland’s education system. Greater input from business and industry will be vital in creating an education system that will meet the needs of a modern economy and be capable of quickly responding to skill needs. Apprenticeships must form part of this system and, with plans to introduce new apprenticeships in the areas of IT, manufacturing and engineering among others, we are hopeful that this is on the way to being delivered. With Ireland’s apprenticeship programme set for expansion into new fields, it is time for both businesses and young people to consider the benefits these schemes can offer them.
A range of industries are set to benefit from the expansion in programmes, from IT to tourism and food. As Ireland moves to increase the number and scope of apprenticeships on offer, we must also seek to change attitudes and understanding of what apprenticeships can offer. They are much more than simply a route to a traditional construction industry job, and this year we will see new apprenticeship programmes introduced in areas as varied as culinary training and insurance practice.
Benefits for Employees and Employers
Apprenticeships provide a great opportunity for students interested in getting practical work-based experience as part of their education, while often also allowing them to earn as they learn.
They also offer many benefits to employers. The opportunity to invest in the future of a young person interested in working in your sector cannot be overlooked and apprenticeships can add excellent value to a business, especially an SME. Apprentices are a long term investment by a company and offer employers an opportunity to train new employees in specific practices and to shape their work habits, standards and culture to the particular business. While working within the business, an apprentice is continually acquiring applied knowledge and skills which meet occupational standards, with support from a training body.
Chambers Ireland is encouraged by the commitments of the National Skills Strategy on increasing the scope and availability of apprenticeships and we would encourage employers, particularly SMEs, to look at the opportunities an apprentice might bring and consider making this investment in both their business and the apprentice’s education and career.
How Can I Find Out More?
Interested employers should get in touch with the Apprenticeship Council of Ireland for guidance on how to engage with the apprenticeship model http://www.apprenticeshipcouncil.ie/.
Written by: Elisha Collier O'Brien, Research & Policy Executive, Chambers Ireland
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